“Latvia’s pulp fiction”: AlJazeera programme on FSC and destructive logging in Latvia

A programme this week on AlJazeera’s People and Power reports on destructive logging in Latvia – including the fact that FSC-certified Latvian timber is still on sale in the UK, despite the fact that the FSC certified was suspended on 16 July 2010.

During 2009 and 2010, the FSC-certified Latvian state logging company, Latvijas Valsts Mezi, doubled the area of forest logged from 15,000 hectares to 30,000 hectares each year. Rainforest Alliance, the FSC certifying body, carried out an audit in June 2010, and found that “the harvesting level in 2009/2010 far exceed the long term sustainable level.” As AlJazeera’s film reveals, this is something of a euphemism.

According to AlJazeera, one-third of LVM’s timber is sold to the UK, “guaranteed as being sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council”.

AlJazeera contacted the three companies mentioned in the film for a response. Homebase and B&Q declined to comment (but B&Q provided a statement after the film was broadcast). Travis Perkins, a UK building materials sales firm, gave a statement to AlJazeera. Here’s an extract from the programme:

The company said that it buys Latvian timber in good faith from LVM, among other suppliers. But that the wood currently going through its sawmills came from logs stockpiled from before LVM’s suspension from the FSC. The company agreed that the situation in Latvia was far from satisfactory but pointed out that LVM was now re-seeking certification. It added: “Travis Perkins … risk assesses all its timber buying activity. In this case we take the view that the medium term prospects for forestry management in Latvia are good and are better served by our continued interest in buying certified product from the country.”

But selling this “stockpiled” timber as FSC-certified is not allowed, according to a statement on NEPCon’s website (Rainforest Alliance’s partner in Latvia):

Additionally, any products that were already harvested in the area prior to 17 July, but not sold prior to that date, shall not be sold as FSC certified.

Why did Rainforest Alliance not take action to suspend the certificate sooner – to prevent the stockpile of FSC-certified timber that was harvested at a non-sustainable rate? And what action does FSC intend to take to address this problem?

FSC UK’s executive director, Charles Thwaites gave AlJazeera the following comment, that beautifully illustrates what a mess FSC certification actually is:

“[LVM] … have no FSC certificates issued to them that allow them to claim that their forests are either FSC certified in full or are covered by a controlled wood forest management certificate. It is possible that some timber from their woodland is entering the supply chain as controlled wood, but this would have had to be especially risk-assessed on its own merits. LVM does have a chain-of custody certificate that allows them to pass controlled wood on as a dealer, so to speak. However, this is not at all the same as saying that all their forests have ‘blanket’ controlled wood clearance. A chain-of-custody certificate only allows LVM to pass on timber as FSC-controlled wood from any source that had been properly risk-assessed as falling within the rules.”

So, er, that’s all right, then. Isn’t it?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s