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.
Nothing encapsulates the dismal weaknesses of the FSC system quite as well as the case of Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB) – which for many years has been FSC’s flagship certified logging operation in Africa.
A new report, published jointly by Rap-Al Uruguay and Rel-UITA looks at tree plantation workers and agrotoxic spraying. The research was carried out on plantations operated by FOSA (Forestal Oriental S.A.), a transnational company that is owned by UPM (formerly Botnia) and which is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
On 25 May 2009, SGS Qualifor issued an FSC certificate to New Forest Company for its plantations in Uganda. Less than two months later, more than 10,000 villagers petitioned the lands minister to stop New Forest Company from evicting them from their homes. They accused armed groups of beating people, abducting them and destroying their crops and houses. Below are two articles about New Forest Company, one from the Ugandan newspaper,New Vision and one from World Rainforest Movement.
As the FSC is considering how it should engage with potential future forest carbon trading schemes – and will no doubt be under pressure from the certification bodies, such as SGS and Rainforest Alliance, to move into this potentially lucrative market – it should take heed of recent developments concerning the United Nations scheme to certify international carbon credits.
We have received the following from ‘Alert against the Green Desert Network’ in Brazil, reporting on the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) continuing occupation of part of the illegal (but FSC certified) plantations owened by Veracel. As we previously reported, the Veracel certification has been highly controversial; despite FSC itself finding that the certificate showed “a number of nonconformities with FSC accreditation requirements”, the certificate still remains in place and SGS Qualifor, which was responsible for issuing it, remains accredited by FSC. The inability of FSC to deal with such cases has prompted at least one NGO to quit its membership of FSC international.
In November 2008, just before the FSC General Assembly, Global Forest Coalition released a report criticising plantation certification in South Africa. The report’s authors, Wally Menne and Blessing Karumbidza of The Timberwatch Coalition, asked the question “Can the FSC forest certification model be used to demonstrate sustainability in large-scale agrofuel crop production?” Their answer is a resounding “no”.
In July 2008, FSC announced that “SGS South Africa, an FSC accredited certification body, has made a business decision to adopt an open-ended moratorium on the issuance of new FSC forest management certificates.” I wrote to FSC with some questions about the moratorium. FSC has so far declined to respond. The emails are below.