At the start of this year, FSC-Watch reported on the ‘suspension’ of the FSC certificate of Malaysian-owned Guyanese logging company, Barama. A statement issued today by the President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, who accuses Barama of “fraud”, will come as a further embarrassment to supporters of the certificate.
FSC-Watch has received unconfirmed reports that the Italian certification company ICILA has issued a certificate to the Cameroonian Groupe SEFAC, which is owned by Italian timber company Vasto Legno. Although the Public Summary report of the certification is not yet available on ICILA’s website, sufficient details have already emerged to suggest that this will come as yet another major blow to FSC’s credibility.
The Norwegian government has decided that it it cannot rely on any certification system, not even the FSC, to help implement it’s newly announced ‘ethical procurement’ policy. The Norwegian authorities instead decided to ban all use of tropical timber in public buildings, stating that “The government wants to stop all trade with unsustainably or illegally logged tropical forest products. Today there is no international or national certification that can guarantee in a reliable manner that imported wood is legally and sustainably logged”.
Earlier this year, we reported that Rainforest Alliance SmartWood was in the process of consulting about whether it should start a new ‘Legality Verification’ scheme for timber. Ouropinion was that the Rainforest Alliance’s previous track-record of detecting illegality had been so dismal that there is no reason to believe that they are capable of identifying even gross breaches of the law. Now we have received information of yet another case where SmartWood appears to have ‘turned a blind eye’ to serious illegalities in one of the logging companies it has certified under the FSC scheme.
In his long and thoughtful comment to an earlier FSC-Watch posting on ‘Legality Verification’, Jeff Hayward, Lead Auditor for SmartWood, concluded by saying “we look forward to further inputs. We believe in a transparent consultation process; this is healthy and constructive.” In that spirit, FSC-Watch is hereby providing further, transparent, input.
Back in November 2006, FSC-Watch reported on the strange lack of consistency between SGS and other observers as diverse as Greenpeace and the World Bank, on the question of the legality, or otherwise, of logging in Papua New Guinea. Whilst most experts take the view that illegal forestry activities are rampant – possibly dominant – in PNG, SGS seems to believe that all log exports from PNG have been legal for the last 12 years. The PNG logging industry has repeatedly used SGS’s reports to claim that they are operating within the law.
The FSC is set to continue on its seemingly inexorable slide into becoming a ‘self-certification’ system with new changes to the Chain of Custody procedures. As announced in the most recent FSC Newsletter (see below), the FSC is currently piloting what are called ‘multi-site’ procedures, in which the FSC’s accredited certifiers would not actually check all the relevent company facilities in order to issue a Chain of Custody certificate.
One of the more controversial of FSC’s policies has been the ‘Mixed Sources’ policy, which allows manufactured products such as plywood, paper and furniture to be labelled as ‘FSC’ even though the amount of wood fibre from FSC-certified sources is actually as little as 10% of the total wood material in the product.
SmartWood’s certificate for plantation outfit Prime Forestry Panama was suspended in May 2006, but SmartWood noted at the time that:
“From February 2003 to September 2005, SmartWood carried out 5 on-site audits of Prime Forestry Panama (August 2003, April and September 2004, March and Sept 2005). Through these audits PFP provided evidence that nonconformances were being addressed and demonstrated ongoing compliance with SmartWood and FSC certification requirements.”