– Greenpeace recommends urgent action

Stockholm, Thursday 5 March 2009 – Swedish timber with the certification label FSC might come from high conservation value forests that should have been left protected, a new Greenpeace report reveals.

Forest Stewardship Council, FSC, is an international organization certifying forestry and wood products, such as paper and furniture. The FSC label should guarantee that the forest companies’ timber and other products derive from forestry with high environmental standards.

– FSC in Sweden has several serious problems. On one hand, many FSC certified forest companies are violating the current Swedish FSC rules, and on the other hand FSC fails to follow up on companies violating the rules. If not explicit sanctions are imposed on these companies FSC Sweden will loose it´s credibility, says Amanda Tas.

The Greenpeace report “Under the cover of forest certification – How the Forest Stewardship Council has failed to prevent the destruction of high conservation value forests in Sweden” reveals the web of complicity between the FSC, which has failed to ensure that adequate standards are used in Sweden, companies that are knowingly destroying threatened high conservation value forests (HCVFs) and certifying bodies which are not acting responsibly to guide companies towards the correct standards of practice and identifies several recommendations need urgent uptake to prevent Sweden’s last remaining HCVF:s from being logged.

Just recently, on 20th February, FSC Sweden announced that its board has agreed on a revised Swedish FSC standard, which includes safeguards of HCVFs. After circulation for comments and approval from FSC International, the standard is estimated to be implemented later this year. This is a good step forward but improved practices are needed on-the-ground to help improve the quality of FSC certificates in Sweden. Swedish logging operators still fail to follow the rules in the current FSC standard (the standard should have been revised 5 years ago according to FSC rules).

The report findings are based on a documentation of 30 different forest areas planned to be logged and three areas logged under FSC certification in Norrbotten and Jämtland.  For example, forest companies had felled trees with high biodiversity values, logs had been run over by the harvesters and deep wheel tracks were left behind in the soil. A number of red-listed species were also found in the forests. These threatened species and high conservation value forests should be conserved under the FSC; however, many companies sanctioned by their certification bodies are acting irresponsibly and are knowingly planning to and logging areas which would violate the FSC standard. This rapidly diminishes the credibility of FSC.

– FSC certification should provide assurance that wood products come from management that show nature conservation consideration and not as now be an imminent threat to the forest. FSC needs to take reins immediately and provide companies and its verifiers explicit safeguards on how to conserve Sweden’s last remaining old-growth forest if not risk becoming a non-functioning tool, says Amanda Tas.

Based on its findings Greenpeace identified several recommendations (1) needed to regain and strengthen FSC’s integrity and credibility in Sweden including: adopting measures to improve the performance and quality of certifying body audits and for improved stakeholder engagement and allowing for temporary moratoriums until a solution regarding a formal complaint on a controversial logging plans is resolved.

For more information, please contact:

Jan Isakson, press officer Greenpeace, +46 70 608 74 83

The Report (pdf)

Notes to editor:

(1) Greenpeace recommends:

• The FSC ensures that the revised Swedish national standard regarding the amount of productive forest areas that should be exempt from forestry measures comes into line with the recommendations of the Environmental Advisory Council and with leading science on nature conservation.

• The FSC and Accreditation Services International, ASI, swiftly produce guidance materials and training in relation to planning, auditing and managing HCVFs to ensure consistent, high performance by companies and CBs. HCVFs should always be considered in the context of a precautionary approach.

• The ASI immediately carries out short notice audits of identified controversial sites and of relevant CBs in order to assess compliance with identification and maintenance of HCVFs.

• The FSC and the ASI develop strong penalties for CBs that do not perform to the required standards of practice and ensure that continuous noncompliance results in suspension or withdrawal of accreditation.

• The ASI ensures that information on forest areas under review is made transparent to all stakeholders in order to facilitate relevant input into the certifi cation process and follow up audits conducted by CBs and ASI.

• The FSC and the ASI give CBs the mandate to instigate temporary moratoriums on logging in HCVFs when a formal complaint has been fi led, until the companies that plan to log comply with FSC standards.

• Areas that are protected voluntarily by forest companies are made transparent to stakeholders