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 to demand from the consumers, that they are informed about the quality of these declarations especially given the problems of transparency in the certification process.
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 in Europe.
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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