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.
In a recent posting, we reported on the sale of FSC’s flagship certified logging company in Africa, Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), to the Singapore-based Olam Group, which describes itself as a “global leader in agricultural products and food ingredients”. Amongst Olam’s activities elsewhere in the world is production and processing of palm oil, so it came as little surprise to some when the company recently indicated, only five months after acquiring CIB’s massive forest assets in northern Congo, that it was interesting in ‘diversifying’ CIB’s production to include various crops such as palm oil, cacao and soya.
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 research paper (see abstract below) on the behavioural patterns of forest elephants has dealt a major blow to the myth of ‘sustainable logging’ in the rainforests of the Congo Basin. One of the areas specifically referred to in the paper as being negatively impacted is covered by the concessions of Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB) that is currently being ‘pre-assessed’ for FSC certification by Rainforest Alliance SmartWood.
One of things that we at FSC-Watch worry about is that the FSC seems to have such a poor memory – so poor, in fact, that it keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. So, to help it along, we are issuing here a list of some of the questions we have asked over the last few months, and that have never been answered. And we have an important new question too.
Some readers of FSC-Watch will no doubt have been surprised to learn that the UK-based NGO Soil Association has, through it’s subsidiary certification body WoodMark, started the process of certifying parts of the notorious Indonesian plantation company Perhutani.
Along with WWF, Greenpeace recently joined a ‘love-in’ with African rainforest logger, Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), to celebrate the arrival into Switzerland of the first shipment of CIB’s FSC-certified timber.
In June 2006, I received a leaked report written by a consultant to a World Bank- Finnish government-funded “village forestry” project in Laos. About 50,000 hectares of the project area had been certified by SmartWood in January 2006. The report documented serious breaches of FSC principles and criteria, particularly the fact that the consultant found that logs were not marked properly. “Tracing and chain of custody of trees/logs is therefore impossible,” commented the consultant.