1.Given that FSC and other schemes are now taking off rapidly are you
saying that you would prefer that they did not exist at all?
The main idea of the article is to dismantle some of the myths used in
the marketing of FSC certified timber. We argue that the FSC is not a
tool to protect of the worlds' forests. If it was promoted as an
industrial norm to improve management systems in the branch of forestry
we would not have many problems with it. But with the strong backing from
environmental heavyweights, it has became the "mantra" for international
forest policy. This is too convenient given the context of a globalised
free trade which transfers responsibility for forest destruction into the
hands of consumers, now confused by hundreds of ecolabels. If you look in
Europe on the packaging for copy paper you will see that most of them
carry some information about it's environmental soundness. It is too much
from the consumers, that they are informed about the quality of these
declarations especially given the problems of transparency in the
There is also this problem about Percentage Based Claims which allows the
companies to use uncertified timber in their products, especially in the
pulp and paper sector. Consumers will buy products from unknown sources
even with the FSC-Label, so the propaganda "help to safe the worlds
rainforests" is extremely misleading. This is significant compromise made
by the FSC to the paper and pulp industry and reflects the weakness of a
voluntary marketing tool and negotiations with "market forces". Within
this context, by supporting the FSC consumers are in fact also supporting
predatory exploration of natural resources.
A good example of this problematic is UPM Kymene, one of the largest
paper companies in the world. UPM Kymene stands accused of collaboration
with Indonesian paper mills in the forest burning of 1997 and boasts a
long list of conflicts with the local population. They have attempted a
greenwash with a rapid assessment by a Certifier, also working for the
FSC. Although the assessment had nothing to do with the FSC, it
represented explicit acknowledgement and support of the certification
process by forces opposing environmental and social justice.
And you are no doubt following the FSC-Scandal surrounding
Teak-plantations in Indonesia, resulting in a claim from more than 100
NGOs to stop any FSC-certification in the country. The main problem is
that Principle one, which refers to compliance with state laws does not
mean much in Indonesia. Indonesia is investing heavily in pulp and paper
production in an attempt to gain a leading position in global markets.
There is still a lot have to be done, before FSC is able to guarantee
real social and environmental benefits. We argue that its basic
conceptual flaws will mean that it will never attain its more laudable
objectives. We think that it is irresponsible from environmental
organisations to continue blindly promoting an initiative, suffering a
series of fundamental problems. An example of one of the more obvious
structural problem is the direct financial link between the certifier and
the company - a dynamic which certainly does not encourage objectivity
and transparency. Beyond a revision of the Principles we question whether
FSC is an appropriate means for forest preservation.
Within the pulp and paper sector FSC resulted in a reversal of the NGO
campaign for use of recycled paper. These campaigns had promising
results, at least in Germany, where State governments were using
exclusively recycled paper, as were many journals and academic
institutions. FSC broke the impetus and focus for this campaign. Given
the increasing consumption of paper products this is a very disappointing
development and must be included in any meaningful evaluation of
certification schemes. Recycled paper produced in modern factories has a
clearly better environmental record than any FSC certified paper could
attain. As recycled paper needs a certain percentage of fresh fibre,
percentage based claims would make sense in that context - FSC-fibre and
fibre from old paper, not from predatory clear cutting, with the
condition, that the FSC is really
guaranteeing ecological and social improvements.
2. What proportion of forest used for pulp production is now covered by
FSC (and other schemes), and what proportion do you think will be covered
in 10 years?
The pulp and paper sector is highly complicated driven by an
unforeseeable dynamic and involving many of illegal activities. One good
example of any difficulty of evaluating the damaging impact of the pulp
and paper industry is Jefferson Smurfit Group in Columbia and Venezuela.
From their official data it is impossible to identify the flows of raw
material within the group. Information from local organisations indicates
that one of their subsidiaries, Carton de Colombia, is transforming one
of the most valued parts of the Amazon Forests into pine plantations. Our
partners in Columbia were taken to court by the company, accused calumny
when they denounced the expansion plantations by reforestation of areas
destroyed by "accidental" fires. These fires of course involve "third
parties" (hired local people) and the invasion of indigenous villages - a
well known practice also used in Indonesia. Surprisingly enough, the
company lost the process. Nevertheless, they continue to claim in their
correspondence and marketing that they are practicing "sustainable forest
mangement", mentioning also certification.
With estimations about the market development of paper products there has
been a global boom in the last years mainly due to increased internal
consumption in South East Asia and Brasil, a result of the increasing
computerisation in these countries. These global markets are not
sensitive to certified paper, which though have a small impact on markets
Yesterday (16/08/01) a report in the Deutsche Welle (German TV) stated
that UPM Kymene is suffering due to the general economic recession, as
companies reduce their advertisement, resulting in a significant decline
in paper demand. This is also a sign for the unstable dynamics in the
paper sector. Given this general instability, it will be difficult to
obtain clear numbers about economic tendencies.
3. Is there another credible scheme in existence which supports
sustainable forestry in the way you describe?
In our opinion, some acceptable certification schemes derive from the
organic farming movement such as Naturland in Germany. The big difference
with FSC is that this is an ideologically founded movement. Naturland is also a FSC-certifier, one with the toughest certification guidelines.
Within the German forestry context this initiative was involved in
developing criteria of the German national FSC working group. The
certification in Germany is making a good progress, but one needs to
consider, that for centuries Germany has had sophisticated legislation on
forest issues. Further, land use in general is determined within a legal
framework, making problems like land disputes or illegal invasion of
forest areas relatively easy to tackle. In addition, problems with
traditional land use do not exist anymore. Last but not least in Germany
forests are mainly monocultures, which need ecological enrichment.
Within this setting, discussions promoted by certification has brought
significant improvements. The German forestry sector has been highly
interested in the subject, as through certification they hope to gain
economic competitiveness in the international markets. This is a world
away from countries such as Brasil.
In summary, certification can have an impact on forestry within the
specific european cultural context. But even here, it can not replace
binding forestry regulations which should be the target of environmental
campaigns seeking to protect forests. Rigorous Certification, could be a
meaningful tough market tool only when the trade for other timber is
limited. This leads to the crux of the issue: the non discriminatory
rules of the WTO, which prohibit political action against products from
predatory production in general.
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