A new film exposing FSC: ‘Sustainable on Paper’

A new film documents the problems with FSC. FSC-Watch will be posting several articles about this over the next few days. Meanwhile, here is FERN’s description of the film in EU Forest Watch, January 2011. Below that is a trailer for the film.

UPDATE: The full documentary is available here.

‘Sustainable on Paper’

Despite some plantations in Brazil being Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, they are nevertheless beset by problems. This is well-described in the film ‘Sustainable on Paper’ by freelance journalists Leo Broers and An-Katrien Lecluyse opening in Ghent, Belgium, 24 January 2011.[1]

Using the example of Brazilian-Scandinavian transnational Veracel, the film documents why many FSC-certified tree plantations are controversial. Despite the FSC certificate attesting to a well-managed plantation, communities surrounded by thousands of hectares of eucalyptus speak of dropping water levels and water sources polluted by pesticides. They speak of biodiversity and the sustenance it provided replaced by a monoculture offering little more than raw material for pulp and paper – 98 per cent of which is for export, including to the EU.

The film and recent articles in the Belgian media[2] also question how hundreds of pending cases regarding labour law violations escaped detection by the certifiers issuing the FSC label. With such shortcomings persisting in what is considered the most stringent forest certification scheme globally, what lies behind the logo of the schemes where even the sustainability ‘on paper’ is in question?

[1] The film will also be shown in Brussels (27 January) and Antwerp (31 January). It is available in Dutch, Portuguese and English.

[2] http://www.mo.be/node/150516 



  1. I like the song.

    While eucalyptus plantations may not be part of the natural ecosystems of Brazil (as stated in the song), the video does not really make a point about FSC?!

    All we learn is that principle 1: it is legal.

    This does not paint a complete picture!

    FSC does not allow for large plantations; however if they were done a long time ago, this will not prevent certification, as long as there is a plan to bring back the preindustrial forest.

    So, what is it? Is there a plan to bring back the forest of origine? If yes, then should we not thank FSC for forcing the conversion of the plantation back to a natural forest?

    IF this plantation is a very very small piece of land, than the issue is trivial.

    So what is the REAL story?

    I don’t really like these kind of propaganda videos that are based on emotions, and don’T tell us anything.

    We need more information is we are to conclude that FSC is bad.

    Paint a complete picture if you can?

  2. Hi Someone,

    This is not the documentary, it is only a teaser (not even a trailer). Please watch the film before you jump to conclusions.

    Best regards,

  3. The film is not online yet, though we hope it will be soon.

    You can read our article in MO* about FSC and the Veracel-case:

    There is also a follow-up article about the suspension SGS, Veracel’s certifier:

    In spite of all the evidence Veracel has still got the FSC-label. We filed a formal complaint with FSC about Veracel last year. Since our complaint the pulp company already produced 1 milion ton of FSC-certified paper.

  4. The comment by “Someone” on April 14th needs some clarification. FSC Principle 10.5 states “A proportion of the overall forest management area, appropriate to the scale of the plantation and to be determined in regional standards shall be managed so as to restore the site to a natural forest cover”. In other words FSC does not demand restoration of the entire forest management area.

    Public summary reports on the FSC site should tell us what steps FSC certified plantation managers are taking to comply with Principle 10.5 and which regional standards are being used. Yet, if you look at the public summary reports for plantations it’s clear first of all that there is massive variance between certification bodies in the amount and quality of information provided. Why does the FSC tolerate this variability? Smartwood reports for example are extremely thin on detail. Some summaries are only five pages. SGS has quite rightly received a lot of criticism on these pages and elsewhere but their public summary reports are far more detailed than Smartwoods. In many of the summaries I’ve looked at it’s not clear if the certification body is monitoring Principle 10.5. Is the FSC happy with this?

    Many FSC certified plantations, particularly eucalyptus, supply the hygienic tissue industry with fibre. FSC labelled toilet and kitchen towel products end up on the shelves of the big European supermarket groups. Given the power of multinational pulp and paper companies and supermarket groups, does anyone really think the FSC will pay anything but lip service to the restoration of plantations to natural forest cover? The loss of plantation area would potentially reduce the quantity of certified fibre available for manufacture. Something the big multinationals are never going to agree to.

    A certification and labelling system for paper products derived largely from plantations? As a forester I have to say yes. But under the FSC umbrella? Definitely not. PEFC is the right label for kitchen and toilet paper.

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