FSC’s forthcoming 3-yearly General Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa, looks like it will be a farcical exercise in corporate-sponsored public relations, whilst the disparity between what the organisation likes to think it is doing and what it is actually doing continues to grow.
The controversy over SGS Qualifor’s certification of Veracel deepened last week with two-pages of articles in the Brasil de Fato newspaper. The articles (in Portuguese, links below) note the recent court decision against Veracel, fining Veracel US$12.5 million and ruling that the company must remove eucalyptus trees covering an area of 96,000 hectares and replant native forest.
On 19 June 2008, Spanish pulp company ENCE lost its FSC certification in Spain, when its subsidiaries Norte Forestal (Norfor) and Silvasur had their certificate withdrawn. Norfor manages just over 12,000 hectares of industrial tree plantations in the northeast of Spain and Silvasur has almost 70,000 hectares in Andalusia. Both companies were certified by SGS Qualifor in October 2004. The Norfor certificate was questioned by Greenpeace, WWF, theAsociación Pola Defensa Da Ría, Verdegaia, and Association for the Ecological Defence of Galicia. In October 2007, Accreditation Services International reported that the environmental concerns were justified, and that Norfor was non-compliant with FSC’s Principles and Criteria.
Back in December 2006, we reported on the curious announcement by German multinational timber company, Danzer, about its intention to ‘cooperate’ with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in order to get its massive Congolese logging operations FSC certified. Less than two years ago, Per Rosenberg, Director of WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Network gushingly proclaimed that “We believe that the cooperation between WWF and Danzer represents an important shift towards responsible forestry for some of the world’s most threatened forests in the Congo Basin. WWF looks forward to working with Danzer to realize their commitment”.
In the following contribution, Philip Owen of Southern African NGO GeaSphere, reports on the ecological devastation caused by the FSC certified industrial plantations in South Africa. The article illustrates the problems in one particular site, certified by the ‘Soil Association’ WoodMark, which overall has certified nearly 500,000 hectares of plantations in South Africa. Readers will not miss the irony that one of the major impacts has been on the soils of the region, and will no doubt question how such an operation could be certified by an organisation which purports to be concerned with the conservation of the world’s soil. A further 1 million hectares have been certified by the now discredited SGS-Qualifor.
A final blow has been dealt to the credibility of the now ‘self-suspended’ FSC certifier SGS, by a Brazilian Federal court decision that nearly one hundred thousand hectares of eucalyptus plantation owned by SGS-certified company Veracel were planted illegally and will have to be torn down within 12 months. The company has also been ordered to pay $12 million in fines for causing environmental damage.
In a shock announcement, South Africa-based SGS Qualifor – FSC’s second largest certifier – has said that it has taken a ‘business decision’ not to issue any further FSC forest management certificates, pending a ‘review’ of it’s forest management certification processes. The announcement, made on the FSC’s website, is believed to pre-empt an imminent decision by the FSC Secretariat to formally suspend SGS’s accreditation worldwide. SGS has recently been forced to withdraw several non-compliant certificates, including in Guyana and Spain, following damning assessments by FSC’s Accreditation Services International; in April this year, the certifier was also banned from all certification activities in Poland.
In 2007, SGS Qualifor certified Mount Elgon National Park as “well managed” under the FSC system. Accreditation Services International found that SGS Qualifor’s certification was based on hoped for future improvements, rather than what was actually happening in the National Park. ASI, however, failed to take any meaningful action against SGS Qualifor.
The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) and Greenpeace Nordic recently filed a formal complaint with FSC about the logging operations of SCA in northern Sweden. SSNC and Greenpeace Nordic’s press release is posted below. The organisations are demanding that SCA’s certificate be withdrawn.
Galician environmental group the Association for the Ecological Defence of Galicia (ADEGA) has announced the withdrawal of its support to FSC, at least until the the certificate ofNORFOR, ENCE’s eucalyptus plantation operation, is cancelled.