Clear-cuts for Ecotimber – more criticism of FSC, this time on German TV

On 14 February 2010, SWR, a German TV station broadcast a short film about FSC certification of clearcuts in Sweden.

The programme, Report Mainz, is available by clicking on the image below (only available in German):

UPDATE: 8 March 2011 – the video is now available with English subtitles:

The programme starts with an introduction to FSC. The presenter asks “Can we trust this seal?” and answers, “According to research by Manfred Ladwig and Thomas Reutter, probably not.” A transcript of the programme is available here (in German).

The programme shows film of logging in Swedish taiga, where harvesting machines can remove 900 trees per day – some hundreds of years old. Plant species in these forests are threatened with extinction. The film shows the forest being clear-cut.

The film-makers interview Professor Andreas Schulte, a teacher of forest ecology at the University of Münster. Schulte explains how, as a result of clear-cutting, “The whole ecosystem is destroyed.”

The film-makers followed the logging trucks in Sweden to one of Stora Enso’s pulp and paper mills. Stora Enso’s paper products are FSC-certified.

Sebastien Kirppu used to work for Story Enso, but he now works for the state forest authority, documenting threatened species in Sweden’s forests. He showed photographs of clearcuts in areas that are supposed to be protected. “Managing 1.9 million hectares in this way? This is devastation,” he said.

An interview with Uwe Sayer, Executive Director of FSC Germany, follows. The film-makers showed him the footage they took of FSC-certified logging in Sweden. Perhaps surprisingly, having seen the film, Sayer attempts to defend Stora Enso. When asked about the logging of forests more than 100 years old that are habitat to endangered species, Sayer hesitates, then says:

“If you allow forest management, if you allow forestry actions, then you must accept to some extent that even old trees will be felled. You cultivate a forest and at some time cut a tree as a result of this forestry management.”

[The original in German: “Wenn Sie Waldwirtschaft zulassen, wenn Sie forstliches Handeln zulassen, dann müssen Sie ein Stück weit auch akzeptieren, dass alte Bäume gefällt werden. Sie lassen, Sie kultivieren einen Wald und fällen irgendwann einen Baum, als Ergebnis dieser Forstwirtschaft.”]

When asked about clear-cutting, Sayer hesitates again, then smiles and says:

“That is now, I think now, I’ve already told you. The assessment of clear-cutting is problematic to consider in a very differentiated way.”

[The original in German: “Das ist jetzt, ich finde jetzt, ich hab es Ihnen vorher schon gesagt. Die Bewertung von Kahlschlag ist problematisch, sehr differenziert zu betrachten.”]

I know, that doesn’t make much sense to me either (in either English or German).

Schulte, the forest ecologist from the University of Münster responds: “It is a mystery to me how this certificate was awarded. At a first glance you can see that this is not sustainable forest management. You don’t have to be trained by FSC, my students would recognise this in the first semester.”

Schulte points out that the underlying problem is that FSC’s certifying bodies are paid by the companies that want to get certified. The programme concludes that FSC is in effect funded by the logging industry and environmentally conscious consumers are thus deceived.



  1. FSC Germany has responded to the programme, with a statement, available on its website (in German):

    FSC Germany dismisses the claim that the FSC certification system is in effect funded by the logging industry, by pointing out that other certification systems have a similar arrangement where the company being certified pays the company carrying out the assessment. “It’s normal certification practice,” says FSC Germany.

    That FSC is still not taking this conflict of interest seriously is perplexing, to say the least. It lies at the heart of the FSC system and undermines what little credibility FSC may have once had.

  2. The Russian forestry against l National FSC standard

    On February, 25th 2011г. Ministry of Natural Resources of Khabarovsk region (Russia) has published the letter for FSC certificated wood companies and other forest organizations of forest complex of the Russian Far East. The letter notifies on impossibility of use FSC standard in the region by reason of contradictions of its FSC requirements with the forest legislation of the Russian Federation.

    This decision was preceded by the expanded meeting in the Ministry of Natural Resources which dedicated of the problem FSC certification in Russia on February. The meeting has been initiated by the large timber industry companies of Russian Far East certificated in last years or conducting a preparation for FSC certification, in particular such companies as RFP Groups, Rimbunan Hijau Group (RH Group), Arkaim, Ternejles, Change-trading. All key stakeholders of Far East have taken part in the meeting . As a results of meeting there was Resolution explaining that performance FSC standard in region is impossible developed, since it contradicts the Russian wood legislation. The resolution pays attention to rough infringements by developers of FSC standard of requirements FSC Council, and demands to stop action FSC standard in region.

    Russian National FSC standard has been confirmed by FSC Board of guardians despite rough infringements of procedures of working out and the statement in 2008. In the course of working out and consultations many have been ignored regional and federal stakeholders. As a matter of fact, some tens wood enterprises and the organizations participated in this process, in spite of the fact that there are tens thousands organizations (forest stakeholders) in Russia. The review of the standard has been published in magazine «Forest Certification» №8, 2007.

    Russian Far East is big forest regions of Russia. The area of Russian Far East is 616 mln ha and its covered by forests about 260 mln. ha

    The letter to the enterprises and the organizations

    The list of participants of meeting

    The meeting resolution

    FSC Russia

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