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Comments on FSC at Risk: Greenpeace Progress Report

This post is a reflection from one of GFC members on Greenpeace’s Progress Report on the Forest Stewardship Council which can be found here:
During the 20 years since the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) came into existence, Greenpeace has invested enormous amounts of time, energy and money into trying to make it work. However it now appears that Greenpeace may have reached a point where its allegiance to FSC is starting to wear thin. Recently published Greenpeace reports (see attached and below) indicate growing concern and criticism regarding FSC’s apparent lack of integrity, and poor performance:
“Unfortunately, as the system has expanded, FSC has not been successful in applying its system and standards consistently. Furthermore, many of the FSC’s on-the-ground performance criteria are either weak, under threat of being weakened, or not properly implemented.”
Timberwatch, and international groups including the World Rainforest Movement (WRM), the Global Forest Coalition (GFC), FERN, and Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) consistently raised legitimate concerns about FSC’s most serious shortcomings, especially in respect of the perverse social and environmental effects that have resulted from FSC’s certification of industrial timber plantations in developing countries.
However it seems the FSC has stubbornly chosen to ignore good advice and suggestions for improvements in its policies and operations, and with some of its staff and certification bodies often being sympathetic to the timber industry, it simply continued to expand its indiscriminate certification of clear cut logging in forests, as well as the green-washing of environmentally destructive tree plantations as “responsibly managed forests”.
The big question right now, is whether, and for how much longer, Greenpeace will continue giving the FSC undeserved acclaim by remaining its most credible environmental member? Progressive environmental thinkers are beginning to ask if Greenpeace’s long-standing association with the FSC may actually have done much more harm than good, by helping to legitimise a scheme that was originally intended to protect forests, but now aims to promote excessive consumption of timber and wood-derived products like cellulose and paper, together with the associated pollution and waste that they generate?
In September 2004, many concerned NGOs including Timberwatch and GeaSphere from South Africa, attended an international meeting held in Bonn, Germany, convened by the FSC secretariat, to review FSC’s performance. Unfortunately things have not improved since then, so perhaps the time has come for another major rethink on the future of FSC?
Next year (in September 2015), the World Forestry Congress (WFC) will take place in Durban, South Africa, and it would be both timely and convenient to try to arrange another similar, but independent, meeting of concerned NGO stakeholders during the same period. Participants at this meeting could take  advantage of the opportunity to avoid duplicating travel expenses (and GHG emissions), as many of the key organisations involved (including Greenpeace) should already be there at that time.
Timberwatch is planning to help co-ordinate an alternative civil society event in parallel with the WFC, and would also be willing to help with logistical arrangements for a possible meeting to review the role and performance of the FSC.
Wally Menne
Tel: +27 (0) 82 4442083
Skype: wally.menne

FSC at Risk Progress report

Background – April 17, 2014

Greenpeace believes that, if all FSC supporters work together, we can resolve the shortcomings the system currently faces, and preserve the credibility and legitimacy of FSC.

Download the Progress Report.

Last updated: April 2014 – Progress First Quarter 2014

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the only forest certification system that has been internationally recognised by major environmental organisations and social movements. Organisations such as Greenpeace have helped to build, support, and indeed promote FSC, because the system offers assurances of responsible forest management from an ecological, social, and economic perspective. The FSC’s strong foundations, perceived credibility and legitimacy have given FSC-labelled products a competitive edge and an enhanced market value. As a result, the system has experienced dramatic growth and subsequent demand in the last decade.

Unfortunately, as the system has expanded, FSC has not been successful in applying its system and standards consistently. Furthermore, many of the FSC’s on-the-ground performance criteria are either weak, under threat of being weakened, or not properly implemented. We consider FSC to be in a serious situation and are deeply concerned over the rapidly eroding integrity and credibility of the system.

Greenpeace is committed to addressing the shortcomings within the FSC system and is seeking the support of others who share the vision of a strong and meaningful FSC. FSC is the only existing global system with the ability to have a real impact on the ground in the forests.

Download FSC at Risk: A joint 4-step action plan to strengthen and restore credibility

Download Appendix to “FSC at Risk”: Recommended action to strengthen FSC’s credibility

Download FSC at Risk: Finland Case Study

6 May, 2014
Posted in News, Forests and Climate Change