Ethical Performance
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WWF backs FSC logo as critics begin to circle

May 2009

A leading environmental group has reaffirmed its backing for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) amid a growing debate about whether the body’s timber certification scheme is still worthwhile.

WWF has released a statement saying the scheme – used by many companies to indicate their timber supplies are sustainable – ‘is still the best’, even though some NGOs have said they are losing faith in FSC certification.

WWF’s latest assessment of forest certification systems, conducted with the World Bank, has concluded that FSC ‘best meets WWF’s core requirements’. It says improvements can be made to the scheme, but it is ‘driving significant improvements in forest management on the ground’, encourages ‘meaningful and equitable participation of all major stakeholder groups’, and ‘delivers consistency’ across various countries.

The 15-year-old FSC is a non-profit organization promoting ‘responsible forest management’ based on ten principles, including respect for indigenous people’s rights, prohibition of hazardous chemicals, and ‘maintenance of the ecological functions and integrity of the forest’.

Independent certifying bodies such as SGS and the Soil Association inspect forests before giving FSC seals. About 945 forests fulfil FSC principles, and 12,000 companies have received ‘chain of custody’ certification. Among companies that sell FSC-certified timber are Argos, B&Q, J. Sainsbury and Wickes.

WWF says it will continue to promote the FSC logo ‘as an internationally recognized hallmark of responsible forest management’. However, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, one of the FSC scheme’s founders, has said it is ‘deeply concerned by the number of FSC certifications that are now sparking controversy and threatening the credibility of the scheme’. FSC-certified projects that have attracted recent criticism include logging operations in Massachusetts.

Friends of the Earth says most FSC certifications ‘are highly reliable’ but adds: ‘We are concerned at reports that some FSC certificates are failing to guarantee rigorous environmental and social standards. As a result the mark’s credibility is being undermined.’

The German environmental non-governmental organization Robin Wood recently dropped its FSC membership, citing concerns about the certification of some ‘large-scale plantations’ in South America, which it feels are not sustainable.

Greenpeace, along with other NGOs such as the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, expressed reservations about FSC in early 2008, but recently said ‘progress’ was being made on addressing its concerns.

FSC told EP: ‘Many of the concerns highlighted as criticism of FSC are being addressed. Unfortunately some critics choose to follow a pattern of self-promoting publicity rather than acting as a true voice of concern.’

Forest Stewardship Council | Global | Certification

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