In November 2015, WWF Germany filed a formal complaint with FSC against the Austrian-based company Holzindustrie Schweighofer – the largest forest products company in Romania. The complaint followed a series of undercover investigations by the Environmental Investigation Agency and an article in Germany’s Spiegel magazine.
“Based on a review of 40 studies, we found that certified tropical forests are overall better for the environment than forests managed conventionally.”
But the conclusion is based far more on wishful thinking than on any scientific evidence. The opening line of the article was amended within a week of being posted to include the words “of variable quality”.
Yesterday, at the FSC General Assembly in Vancouver, FSC members voted in favour of a motion to scrap the ban on the certifying plantations that were established on forests cleared after 1994.
On December 8th, FSC Brazil announced that the certificate of the country’s largest certified forestry operation, Jari, had been suspended following raids on companies suspected of massive fraud and laundering of illegal timber. Such certificate suspensions or terminations usually provoke claims from FSC’s supporters and apologists that “this shows that the system is working” – because unworthy companies are losing their endorsement. More often, however, it merely raises questions as to how the company was ever certified in the first place, and how it maintained its certificate for often many years despite there being clear problems. Jari is certainly one of these cases. Inevitably, it also raises serious questions about the ability of the FSC to properly control the work of the certification companies – and whether wood-users were misled about the acceptability of the company’s certified products in the mean time. (more…)
One of Africa’s biggest, longest-standing and most controversial FSC certified logger, Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), has appeared regularly on FSC-Watch. Praised by the likes of Scott Poynton of TFT, CIB’s boosters have consistently ignored the growing evidence for what is now becoming grimly apparent; that the company’s timber production is fundamentally unsustainable, and will likely eventually lead to widespread destruction of some of the Congo Basin’s most valuable forests. The evidence grew stronger this month, with news that the World Bank has stepped in to provide funding to increase the company’s agricultural production. (more…)
On November 24th, according to a report in the Peruvian newspaper La Republica, police raided the docks in the Amazon port of Iquitos, confiscating the equivalent of 60 heavy truck-loads of timber. The wood, worth around $0.5m, was bound for Mexico and the US – and reportedly 80% of it was owned by the FSC certified company, Inversiones La Oroza SRL. (Posting amended 10/12/15)
Last month, we reported on how FSC’s former Executive Director, Andre de Freitas, had raised serious doubts about the FSC’s Chain of Custody (CoC) certification mechanism, describing it as a “myth”. Now a new and, for the FSC, more worrying voice has been added to those expressing concern about the integrity of CoC certificates; that of NEPCon, one of FSC’s accredited certifiers.
Motion 65 to the FSC’s General Assembly, its highest decision-making authority, was tabled by Judy Rodrigues of Greenpeace International. The motion was intended to set out new requirements for the FSC when certifying logging companies in what Greenpeace describes as ‘intact forest landscapes’ (or IFLs). These are important large areas of forest which remain undamaged, and are rapidly declining and being fragmented – often by commercial logging – the world over. Greenpeace rightly wishes to see these forests better protected – but has failed to prevent the FSC from legitimising their destruction.
This is probably not the kind of publicity that FSC was hoping for around its 3-yearly love-in, the General Assembly. But as the FSC’s members make their way home from Seville, no doubt full of self-congratulation for the ‘progress’ they are making, the reality is becoming increasingly hard to avoid: the FSC system is in deep crisis.