FSC’s new plan to launder wood from deforestation

It’s official: the FSC is now setting out to use its grotesque Controlled (sic) Wood Policy in order to ‘launder’ wood from areas experiencing recent deforestation into the FSC certified wood supply chain.

Under the FSC’s current rules, areas of natural forest that have been cut down and converted into industrial tree plantations later than 1994 cannot be FSC certified. This important ‘safeguard’ has been a source of annoyance to the plantation industry (which has been strongly represented on the Board of FSC), as well as large scale pulp and paper companies, which would like to see the restriction removed – in such a way that, in effect, wood from almost any plantation anywhere in the world could be FSC certified, regardless of whether it had been the cause of large-scale or recent deforestation. The FSC’s accredited certification companies, whose interests now largely determine FSC policy, would also be in favour of such a weakening of the rules because it would open up new and lucrative markets for their services.

A very long-running ‘multi-stakeholder consultation’ on FSC’s ‘Principle 10’ concerning plantations failed to find a consensus – but the pressure to drop the ‘1994 rule’ has continued to mount.

A new proposal from the FSC Secretariat circulated this month (see below), suggests a novel way of circumventing the rules to protect natural forest from being converted to plantation: where plantation owners have both pre-1994 plantations (which are certifiable) and post-1994 plantations or areas of natural forest which they wish to convert to plantations (which are not), the area could be split into separate units, with the pre-1994 units being FSC certified under the usual assessment procedures, but the ‘non-certifiable’ parts being instead certified under the Controlled Wood procedures (ie, no actual on-the-ground assessment against the FSC’s Principles and Criteria).

Also under the proposal, fully FSC-certified wood would be allowed from certain plantations where there is still deforestation and conversion going on, up to a limit of 5% of the certified area. This would allow plantation companies to finally destroy any remnants of natural forest remaining in their holdings. Such remnants can be incredibly valuable ecologically, as natural forest corridors and reservoirs of biodiversity.

These changes would mean that the all of the plantation company’s produce, even from areas of natural forest currently being chopped down and turned into fastwood industrial tree crops, would be marketable as either ‘FSC Certified’ or ‘FSC Controlled Wood’. Though it does not go so far as stating it explicitly, the proposal is in effect an invitation to allow the ‘laundering’ of wood from deforestation and conversion into the FSC certified supply chain.

As FSC-Watch has repeatedly noted, the Controlled (sic) Wood policy has, in practice, been used to allow wood from all kinds of sources (including where there are egregious abuses of local people’s rights) into the FSC-certified supply chains. Moreover, in practice, the assessment of plantations for certification has often been so lenient that, in cases such as Veracel in Brazil, the certified operations bear very little resemblance to the FSC’s Principles and Criteria. But what FSC-Watch finds surprising about this new proposal is that it will self-evidently lead to the further degradation of FSC’s already crumbling credibility: the Secretariat seems not to realise that accepting the tainting of the FSC certified supply chain with wood from outright deforestation will be the system’s death-knell. Bizarrely, in an indication of how utterly confused the FSC now seems to be in its policy thinking, the proposal notes as a “problem” that some companies have been forced to stop converting natural forest into plantation in order to stay FSC certified – ie, they are doing precisely what the FSC’s rules on plantations were originally set up to achieve!

FSC-Watch says, environmental and social chamber members of FSC beware! You are supporting an organisation that now seems to serve only one purpose: advancing the interests of the timber industry.

From: FSC Membership Services
Date: Thu, May 10, 2012 at 3:30 PM
Subject: [FSC] Public consultation of the Advice on splitting FMUs
TO: FSC Members FSC Board of Directors FSC Regional Offices FSC National Offices FSC accredited Certification Bodies Accreditation Services International FSC Senior Management Team
FROM: FSC Policy and Standards Unit

Dear all,

FSC invites stakeholder comments on the draft Advice on splitting FMUs for the certification of Forest Management Units (FMUs) with areas converted from natural forest to plantations after 1994.

This Advice was requested by the FSC Board of Directors and is based on stakeholder requests to provide a potential solution for the following scenario:

PROBLEM: In many parts of the world, Organizations are constrained from entering their FMU(s) into FSC certification because of Criterion 10.9 of FSC-STD-01-001 V4-0, which forbids the FSC certification of “plantations established in areas converted from natural forests after November 1994”.

There are situations where a single FMU contains both natural forests and plantations in several separate blocks, divisions or subdivisions of the FMU, including areas converted from natural forests before and after 1994. Some Organizations in this situation, wishing to obtain FSC Forest Management certification for the eligible areas, have stopped all conversion of natural forests, and are managing all areas according to a similar set of FSC-compatible guidelines.

PROPOESD SOLUTION: In these situations where the 1994 rule makes it impossible for the Organization to comply fully with the FSC Principles and Criteria in the plantation areas, the Advice proposes the option to split the existing FMU into two or more separate new FMUs, each one eligible for either FSC Forest Management certification or FSC Controlled Wood certification.

The draft Advice and a comment form for your feedback are enclosed to this communication. The deadline for submitting comments is 10 June 2012. Please direct any comments to me. In the case of questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you in advance for your support and feedback.

Best regards,


Hans Joachim Droste, Ph.D. Policy and Standards Director FSC International Center GmbH

The full FSC ‘Advice Note’ on this subject is available here.



  1. I didn’t know the FSC label was so under the influence of the logging industry – it is true that the road they are heading now, they will give themselves the death-knell.
    I’m certainly a lot more conscious now that an FSC-label doesn’t per definition means ‘sustainably produced wood’ …

  2. Why would you put (sic) after Controlled? Controlled is the correct spelling, and [sic] is intended to reference a spelling or grammar error in the source.

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