FSC has become the ‘Enron of Forestry’

(Photo: FSC Certified Forest in Swaziland c/o fsc-watch.org)

Many of us have watched the great promise of forest certification in the early 1990’s turn into somting that’s… well… it’s all turned for the worse since then. FSC’s priority in recent years is not about ecology and restoration, but of boasting that they’ve certified $20 Billion in product in the past year. They boast that they’ve certified 100’s of million of acres of forests, even if the so-called forests are mostly just big clearcuts. (see photo)

It’s great to see Simon speak out, we owe him much gratitude! The entire ethic of certification is going to be refined and defined by this scandal. What adds a further twist to it all is that most home builders can build an “eco-home” without having to pay premium rates for FSC certified lumber. FSC certified doesn’t sell!

If you haven’t visited fsc-watch.org I recommend it. Just like Simon, the creators of fsc-watch were in on FSC in the beginning, they too have since renounced them for their failings. –DeaneTR

Simon Counsell, director of the Rainforest Foundation UK, requested a chance to respond to the FSC’s interview in-depth. In his response, he states that the FSC has created a “‘race to the bottom’ of certification standards”, alleging that the “FSC really has become the ‘Enron of forestry'”. Counsell, a Founder Member of the FSC, has been monitoring the organization since its creation in 1993. The problems with the FSC are not new says Counsell: “Not long into the FSC’s existence, we started to hear worrying reports… In some cases, certificates were being issued to companies that had a very poor environmental and social record. In 2000, we commissioned a series of local and international experts to investigate and write up a series of case studies about such problems from a number of countries. The results were alarming, and we realized that these were not just isolated cases of ‘bad’ certificates, but the result of systemic problems within the FSC.” Counsell believes that many of the FSC’s drawbacks are due to its tendency to look at each individual logging operation as a separate entity while ignoring the big picture of what industrial logging is doing to rainforest ecology. “Whilst a logging concession might appear to be ‘sustainable’ at this small-scale level, the whole development model that accompanies industrial logging concessions might be highly non-sustainable and destructive,” Counsell says. He continues with examples from the Amazon and Indonesia: “Research in the Amazon has shown that, over a period of years, commercial logging greatly increases the overall propensity of the forest to dry out, burn, and disappear. This happens regardless of whether the logged areas are certified or not. In Indonesia, local environmentalists and indigenous rights experts have long said that it is no use just certifying the odd ‘exemplar’ logging company here and there, because the whole system of industrial logging concessions needs dismantling, and that most of the forest should be returned to its rightful owners, the indigenous communities.” Another problem that Counsell sees as detrimental to the credibility of the FSC is there certification of products from ‘mixed sources’, which “allows up to 90% of the wood fibre in some FSC-labeled products to come from forests or plantations that are not actually FSC-certified, but are supposedly ‘controlled sources’. The truth is that these sources are not ‘controlled’ at all – and hence many FSC products are likely to include material that is from illegal operations, or felling in High Conservation Value forests, or areas that are claimed by indigenous people. The Mixed Sources policy is allowing the laundering of unacceptable wood into the FSC system.” http://news.mongabay.com/2008/0417-hance_interview_counsell.html

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