Last week at Manchester Magistrates Court a timber company called Hardwood Dimensions (Holdings) Ltd was found to be in breach of regulations prohibiting the import and sale of illegally harvested timber.
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.
Two-thirds of the last old-growth forests in Europe are in Romania. Unfortunately, Romania’s forests are under threat from rampant illegal logging. And by failing to kick out companies involved in this illegal logging, the Forest Stewardship Council is complicit in this destruction.
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)
A company called Eucalyptus Fibre Congo S.A. is alleged to have paid at least US$76,500 in “black money” to Congolese public officials in 2012. At the time, the company held an FSC chain of custody certificate.
Three weeks ago, Arnaud Labrousse sent an email to Kim Carstensen, FSC’s Director General. Labrousse has a few questions for FSC. Unfortunately, FSC seems reluctant to answer them.
In February 2015, the Forest Stewardship Council announced that it was kicking out Danish timber giant Dalhoff Larsen and Horneman (DLH). FSC did so after investigations by Global Witness revealed that DLH had traded illegal timber from Liberia.
But how did a company trading illegal timber get FSC certification in the first place?
The raiding of Gibson Guitars in Tennessee in August by US Federal Fish and Wildlife officials for suspected violations of the Lacey Act – which forbids US companies from importing wood obtained from illegal sources – has once again cast a very hard light on the FSC system, and in particular on the Rainforest Alliance, whose SmartWood scheme is the FSC’s most prolific issuer of FSC certificates. An October 2nd article (which we reproduce in full below), published in the ‘Tennessean’ newspaper, has opened new revelations about the relationship between Gibson and the Alliance, which sound loud alarm bells about the ‘independence’ of the certifier.
Last week saw the distressing announcement by UNESCO that the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve had been put back on the organisation’s ‘In Danger’ list, at the request of the Honduran government because, it said, of “the combined threats of illegal logging, fishing and land occupation, poaching and the reduced capacity of the State to manage the site”. Covering 500,000 hectares, and being one of Central America’s most important protected areas, Rio Platano has also gained fame as being a source of mahogany used in the manufacture of Gibson guitars.
Another of the many deeply troubling but now, at least temporarily, vanished FSC certficates exposed by FSC-Watch is that of the rainforest logging ‘SEFAC group’ in Cameroon. The SEFAC certificate disapeared off FSC’s certified forest database sometime during 2009. Neither FSC nor SEFAC itself, nor the logger’s certifier, ICILA, provided an explanation for this.
In May 2008, the US government enacted a revision to the Lacey Act, a hundred year-old piece of legislation that renders it illegal to trade in goods in the US which are from illegal sources, which now makes the Act applicable to the timber trade. Whilst timber traders are no doubt hoping that use of FSC certified wood is going to keep them out of prison, they may be in for a nasty shock.