FSC-Watch

An independent observer of the Forest Stewartship Council

Aracruz, SmartWood, FSC and a conflict of interestTags: Brazil, Partial certification, Plantations, Certifier conflict of interest, Rainforest Alliance SmartWood

In 2003, Brazil's Aracruz bought Klabin's Riocell pulp operations in Rio Grande do Sul. The 400,000 tonnes a year pulp mill came with 40,000 hectares of FSC-certified plantations.

Aracruz is among the most controversial pulp companies in the world. It has an ongoing dispute with indigenous people and quilombolas in Espirito Santo province. The company is currently carrying out a racist campaign aiming to turn the population of Espirito Santo against the indigenous people. The working conditions in its plantations are terrible.

Yet the FSC certificate of part of Aracruz's plantation operations remained in place for three years. In May 2006, two indigenous people from Espirito, Santo Paulo de Oliveira, a Tupinikim from Caieira Velha village, and Wera Kwaray, a Guarani from Boa Esperança village visited FSC's International Secretariat in Bonn and met Heiko Liedeker, FSC's Executive Director.

At the meeting, Hubert de Bonafos, FSC's Accreditation Officer, said that FSC was concerned about the certification of Aracruz. In December 2004, FSC had carried out an annual audit of SmartWood by looking at the certification at Riocell. "As a result", de Bonafos said, "FSC identified some shortcomings in a report to SmartWood." FSC gave SmartWood a year to sort out the problems. But even when SmartWood failed to meet this generous deadline, FSC did not take any public action.

On 23 May 2006, shortly after the meeting in Bonn, Aracruz decided to voluntarily withdraw the FSC certificate. The certification of Aracruz illustrates one of the most serious problems with the FSC system. (The same fault appears in other certification systems, but this doesn't mean that it isn't a problem for FSC.) FSC's certifiers face a conflict of interest every time they carry out an assessment. SmartWood was paid to carry out the assessment by Aracruz. If SmartWood was strict in its application of FSC's principles and decided that Aracruz could not be certified, then SmartWood would lose business. If on the other hand, SmartWood agrees to issue the certificate based (for example) on improvements which are supposed to be made at some point in the future, then they continue to do business with Aracruz.

When FSC started asking questions about the certificate, Aracruz decided it no longer wanted to be certified. According to a statement by Aracruz, the decision to withdraw the certificate was "taken together with SmartWood." A better illustration of SmartWood's conflict of interest is difficult to imagine.

FSC meanwhile, has so far not taken any action against SmartWood, despite the fact that in its audit of December 2004, FSC found problems which SmartWood failed to deal with.

Comments

Eu passei em áreas da Aracruz nos últimos dias, mais precisamente na cidade de Butiá e Minas do Leão e fiquei impressionado com o tamanho da área que eles realizam o corte raso de eucalipto..(tala rasa). É um corte raso em áreas imensas, com impactos ambientais gigantes, principalmente para a fauna local.

We are a small town printer that is considering getting certified even though as of yet there is very little customer demand for FSC. We want to do the right thing but the cost for certification has been quoted to us at anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 per year.

Think about how much work it will be to maintain certification at a small local printer with one facility. Does that price make sense? If the cost remains prohibitive and demand for FSC is low to non existent for many printers, how is this high cost justified?

Ultimately, it will be the printers that will create the demand for FSC product because it is the printer who is in direct contact with the print buyer. We don't have a problem with paying our share of cost to maintain the system but the cost seems out of line given that certification will involve showing us how to do the paperwork and then checking in with us on an annual basis when it is time to re-certify.

So far the printers that I see getting certified are not actually committed to converting their stock offering over to FSC papers but merely promoting that they have FSC stock available in case anyone wants to buy it. Printers need to see that it is their responsibility to use FSC stocks as their house sheets as opposed to just offering FSC as a customer choice.

For the many printers who have not "bought" into the system yet, it would be helpful to offer them a less expensive path in if they will actively promote and commit to using FSC stocks.

Regards,

Ross Newport
Community Printers


"Think about how much work it will be to maintain certification at a small local printer with one facility. Does that price make sense? If the cost remains prohibitive and demand for FSC is low to non existent for many printers, how is this high cost justified?"

It's justified because you've been reaping the demands of corrupt international capitalism from the day you were born. It's time to start making some sacrifices and start paying back the ethical debt that you owe the rest of the world. Instead, you want to sit around and whine about extra work and cost. With that kind of attitude, we're doomed.

Quote "you've been reaping the demands of corrupt international capitalism from the day you were born"

If he has then so have you, David. You're literate.

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