B&Q and Wickes, two of Britain’s biggest DIY stores, have been caught selling plywood falsely labelled as FSC certified.
Certification in any of the countries in the Congo Basin was always going to stretch the credibility of the FSC system to the limit – as the miserable experiences in Cameroon of companies such as SEFAC and Wijma have shown (the former of which remains ‘suspended’ for forest management but, illogically, still certified for Chain of Custody). Sadly, because the FSC is unable to control its certifiers, these lessons seem not to have been learned; allowing its certifiers to issue certificates in DR Congo was always bound to end in disaster.
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.
A US timber company is suing a New Jersey city authority over its cancellation of a controversial order of FSC certified lumber for repair of its ocean-front boardwalks. In the latest development in this long-running debacle, which has exposed gaping weaknesses in the FSC’s Chain of Custody system, the Louis Grasmick Lumber company of Baltimore has said that it will sue the Ocean City authorities for $1.2 million.
In December 2007, the FSC announced that it was “dissociating” itself from the giant Sinar Mas-owned Indonesian paper company Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) – see statement below. The news was mostly greeted by the environmental movement, though there is some suspicion that the FSC only took this unusual step because the possible certification of APP had been exposed in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. WWF in particular has issued stinging reports of the company’s greewashing of its destruction of forests to feed its pulp mill in Riau province, Sumatra. (For WWF, this was yet another ‘logger love-in’ turned sour, having signed an agreement with APP and its parent company in 2003 to advise on sustainable forest management.)
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.