Greenpeace International has (at long last) decided to leave the Forest Stewardship Council. In an statement, Greenpeace International announces the decision:
Greenpeace International was a founding member of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), but now has decided not to renew its FSC membership due to inconsistent implementation and failures to protect forests.
This is a massive blow to FSC’s credibility.
Greenpeace was a founding member of FSC, but in recent years has been more critical of FSC. A 2014 Greenpeace report about FSC in Russia concluded that FSC was in “deep crisis”.
Greenpeace found that in Russia,
The FSC is failing to distinguish good forest management practices from the typical model of unsustainable forest exploitation widely employed in intact boreal, or taiga, forests. It is therefore failing in its mission to be a tool for forest protection.
Even that wasn’t enough to convince Greenpeace to leave the FSC immediately. In 2015, Judy Rodrigues, then a Senior Forest Campaigner for Greenpeace International, wrote in a Greenpeace blog post that she was “proud to be part of FSC at its best”.
In 2014, Rodrigues had tabled Motion 65 which sets out new requirements for certifying logging companies in ‘intact forest landscapes’. Rodrigues describes FSC’s vote to pass Motion 65 as “a truly great moment”.
But Motion 65 as passed by the 2014 FSC General Assembly was watered down and full of loopholes. Motion 65 leaves the door open to largely ‘business as usual’ certification of logging companies operating in some of the world’s most important forests.
In 2015, Rodriques left Greenpeace to join NEPCon, an FSC accredited certifier.
Greenpeace’s Grant Rosoman was on FSC’s Board for seven years. In a 2011 interview, he explained why he felt Greenpeace should stay in FSC:
We have hung in there with a fairly strong commitment to FSC. We don’t want to walk away and fight from the outside; we want to be in FSC. We see it as the best thing going to provide a market solution for the forests.
Back then, Rosoman was aware of problems with FSC, that urgently needed to be resolved:
Greenpeace’s name is often used together with FSC. That is our brand and our reputation that is on the line. While we do remain positive, if we don’t see these issues resolved, we may have not choice but to withdraw our support from FSC on various levels.
After the 2017 FSC General Assembly even Rosoman was concerned that FSC may no longer be “fit for purpose”. His concern was the “red sea” – the economic chamber of FSC using block votes to kill motions it didn’t like. The red sea refers to the voting cards held up during the FSC General Assembly voting process.
While the “red sea” may be a serious internal problem for FSC, in its statement about leaving FSC, Greenpeace makes clear that the problem lies in the forests:
Greenpeace has seen very uneven implementation of FSC principles and criteria globally. In some regions FSC certification improved forestry practices, but in others it fell short of its goals of conserving forests and providing for wider social benefits. This happens in particular in “high risk” regions where democratic and civil society institutions are weak, and corruption is high.
FSC, as a forest certification scheme, is a tool for forestry and timber extraction and Greenpeace believes it is not doing enough on protection. While it has rules for conservation built-in, and can contribute to conservation outcomes, we believe the FSC system is currently focussing on commercial forest operations and needs to carry out improvements to achieve large scale forest protection in all the forest regions of the world.
And in a press release, Matt Daggett, Global Campaign Leader for the Forest Campaign at Greenpeace International, says,
“When implemented effectively, Forest Stewardship Council certification can protect people’s rights and improve forest management, but we no longer have confidence that FSC alone can consistently guarantee enough protection, especially when forests are facing multiple threats. FSC is not consistently applied across regions, especially where there’s weak governance.”
FSC-Watch would question whether FSC certification can ever be implemented effectively, because every FSC accredited certifier is hired by the company wanting to become certified. This is a clear conflict of interestconflict of interest.
As usual, FSC’s reaction is to try to sweep the problems under the carpet. On its website, FSC announces that, “FSC International and Greenpeace International move on to a new phase of stakeholder relationship.”
PHOTO credit: Logged forest in Romania, certified under the FSC system: EIA.