FSC-Watch

An independent observer of the Forest Stewartship Council

FSC vs PEFC: Holy cows vs the Emperor's new clothesTags: All certifiers

One of the reasons I am involved in this website is that I believe that many people are aware of serious problems with FSC, but don't discuss them publicly because the alternative to FSC is even worse. The alternative, in this case is PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes) and all the other certification schemes (Cerflor, Certflor, the Australian Forestry Standard, the Malaysian Timber Certification Council and so on). One person has suggested that we should set up PEFC-Watch, in order "to be even-handed".

The trouble with this argument is that PEFC et al have no credibility. No NGOs, people's organisations or indigenous peoples' organistations were involved in setting them up. Why bother spending our time monitoring something that amounts to little more than a rubber stamp? I can just see the headlines: "Rubber stamp PEFC scheme rubber stamps another controversial logging operation!" Shock, horror. The Emperor is stark bollock naked, and it's not just some little boy pointing this out - it's plain for all to see, isn't it?

One way of countering all these other schemes would be to point out that FSC is better. But, if there are serious problems with FSC - which there are, and if we can see them, so can anyone else who cares to look - then the argument starts to look very shaky.

FSC standards aren't bad (apart from Principle 10, which really isn't much use to anyone except the pulp and paper industry). They say lots of things we'd probably want forest management standards to say. The trouble is that the standards are not being applied in practice. Sure, campaign against PEFC, but if FSC becomes a Holy Cow which is immune to criticism (not least because all the criticism takes place behind closed doors), then we can hardly present it as an alternative, can we?

By the way, anyone who thinks that PEFC and FSC are in opposition should read this interview with Heiko Liedeker (FSC's Executive Director) and Ben Gunneberg (PEFC's General Secretary). In particular this bit (I thought at first it must be a mix up between FSC and PEFC, or Liedeker and Gunneberg):

Question: As a follow-up question, Heiko Liedeker, from your perspective, is there room ultimately for programs like the Australian Forestry Standard, Certfor and others to operate under the FSC umbrella?

Heiko Liedeker: Absolutely. FSC was a scheme that was set-up to provide mutual recognition between national standard-setting initiatives. Every national initiative sets its standard. Some of them are called FSC working groups, some of them are called something else. In the UK they are called UKWAS. We've been in dialogue with Edwardo Morales at Certfor Chile. They are some of the FSC requirements listed for endorsement, we certainly entered into discussion. We've been in discussion with the Australian Forestry Standard and other standard-setting initiatives. What FSC does not do is, it has one global scheme for recognizing certification. So we do not, and that's one of the many differences between FSC and PEFC, we do not require the development of a certification program as such. A standard-setting program is sufficient to participate in the network.

Comments

I imagine it would come as news to quite a few FSC members to learn that "FSC was a scheme that was set-up to provide mutual recognition between national standard-setting initiatives." As one of the Founder Members of the FSC, I can say with total confidence that 'mutual recognition' was not discussed at all during the establishment of FSC.

In this interview, Heiko reports that he is in "in discussion" with Certflor in Chile and AFS in Australia. So, I also wonder whether this is another case of Heiko ignoring or conveniently 'forgetting' the FSC membership's motion (#26) on mutual recognition discussions, which was passed by the membership at the 2002 General Assembly:

"The FSC resolves that, in order to best protect and maintain FSC’s highly-valued brand name and position in the global marketplace, approval by formal vote of the FSC membership is required in order for the FSC to make a formal commitment to engage in any process designed to lead to mutual recognition involving another organization or programme..."

So, the question is, was there ever a 'formal vote' of the membership mandating Heiko to undertake these discussions with Certflor and AFS? If not, did the Board take any steps to discipline Heiko for breaching agreed FSC policy and potentially bringing the organisation into disrepute?

Get real please. All you can do is to critisize, you are not being constructive in your critisism and communications at all. You are fueling the fires in the hope that "Greeny Sponsors" around the globe would donate money so that you can remain in your cosy comfort zones. Remember that the "Moral High Ground is a slippery slope". Not many of your so called NGO's would pass the test when it comes to transparency, sound governance etc, to say the truth, you do not even have constitutions.

I challenge you to come up with workable alternative solutions. I suppose you do not ever use a piece of paper (not even toilet paper), there are no structural or other timber parts in the home you stay in, the office you work in etc etc etc.

I also suppose that you will be able and willing to financially support the families of hundreds of thousands of forestry workers when you finally get your way and commercial plantations are closed down. Well you had better start fundraising right away because you are not even able to support yourselves financially without begging for funding from people on other continents that are ignorant enough to be led around by the noses by you.

There is a perfectly good alternative for funding that would get FSC out of the impossible situation it has got itself into, where it continues to have to go 'cap in hand' to various external donors for funding, but is also continually pleading poverty as a reason why it can't properly fulfil its core functions. See the new posting 'Reforming the FSC by Competitive Tendering' as one possible for alternative funding for a description of this alternative. The bascis of this proposal have been in the public domain for about 4 years, and known to the FSC Secretariat. They have never been responded to or refuted.

I in turn challenge you to come up with a good reason why the proposed system - or something like it - would not be better than the current mess.

As for the economic benefits of plantations: one of the criticisms of the FSC's certifications of plantations has been that the actual assessment of things such as worker wages and benefits has been terribly lax. Plantations are being certified where the worker conditions are appalling, and wages miserably low. One can argue about whether such conditions should exist or not, but the point of this website is that they should certainly not be certified as 'socially beneficial'.

Sure, all systems need the criticism they deserve. And the need to crack unconditional faith in FSC is adequately evidenced by the comment dated 15 Nov. above.

Still, one could have a debate about which system requires most of civil society's resources.

To ignore other systems because they are simply no good is too easy. There's too many people in producer countries and markets who want to get away easily, who think that FSC requires way too much so they argue for something that is 'at least a little better'. This sort of thinking needs to be addressed for it is intrinsically flawed in most cases of alternative certification (because these industry schemes are developed as an easy alternative to FSC, not to complement or enhance it), and also because this line of thinking undermines FSC's achievements so far (not to mention civil society's ideal).

There are fundamental bottom lines for civil society to revisit, FSC Watch is trying to articulate them after X years of FSC. That's good!! So long as this doesn't result in a few people dictating the bottom lines to everyone and so long as the formal and existing democratic processes are not ignored: go, go, go!

I'd love to use FSC timber for any of my wood based product uses, but all I can get is untraceable timber from conversion forests or MTCC forests or newspapers from Rimbunan Hijau or APP/RAPP onwed paper mills. FSC withdrew the certificate of one of the exstiting producers in Malaysia because of illegal logging (too late, but hey, they did it). Interestingly, MTCC (or Keurhout for that matter) didn't withdraw its certificate/recognition. Now, which system needs to be scrutinized for failing to deliver its promises where FSC did?

Hahahahaha!

From the interview with Gunneberg:

"If you take a state like Finland, you have maybe 30,000 environmentalists, 5,000 or 6,000 trade unionists, and over one million family forest owner members, so it makes sense to have an appropriate balance with which all the stakeholders are happy with."

By golly, that is the most primitive argument I heard in a long time! If only trees had voting rights...

Thanks, Eric for your comment about MTCC. You appear to be supporting my argument. MTCC is a rubber stamp operation. It has no credibility. By rubber stamping controversial and even illegal logging operations, MTCC is giving rubber stamps a bad name.

I applaud the brave souls who are willing to scrutinise FSC, lest it become a 'holy cow'. I do worry that 'rubber stamping' greenwash operations are, however, all too effective. I think the existence of the cynical article linked below makes the point. I would love to see some sort of clear disclaimer on the fsc-watch 'about' page which demonstrates the conviction that PEFC, etc are 'the emperor's new clothes' (as you discussed above, see below the line).

As in the linked article, many people will stumble on FSC-watch when trying to learn about the certification and 'which is better' of PEFC & FSC, etc. or whether their PEFC certified toilet paper really is 'environmentally sustainable'. Again, I think it would do forests a great service to include a proper disclaimer/summary that PEFC etc is MORE flawed than FSC. PEFC-watch also now exists at http://www.pefcwatch.org/

AFS article promoting PEFC and trashing FSC, linking to this page:

http://www.forestrystandard.org.au/files/MediaAndNews/News_26Jan07.pdf
____________________________________

Your earlier comments, which I'd love to see properly reflected on the 'About' or 'Home' page:

"...One person has suggested that we should set up PEFC-Watch, in order "to be even-handed".

The trouble with this argument is that PEFC et al have no credibility. No NGOs, people's organisations or indigenous peoples' organistations were involved in setting them up. Why bother spending our time monitoring something that amounts to little more than a rubber stamp? I can just see the headlines: "Rubber stamp PEFC scheme rubber stamps another controversial logging operation!" Shock, horror. The Emperor is stark bollock naked, and it's not just some little boy pointing this out - it's plain for all to see, isn't it?

One way of countering all these other schemes would be to point out that FSC is better. But, if there are serious problems with FSC - which there are, and if we can see them, so can anyone else who cares to look - then the argument starts to look very shaky.

FSC standards aren't bad (apart from Principle 10, which really isn't much use to anyone except the pulp and paper industry). They say lots of things we'd probably want forest management standards to say. The trouble is that the standards are not being applied in practice. Sure, campaign against PEFC, but if FSC becomes a Holy Cow which is immune to criticism (not least because all the criticism takes place behind closed doors), then we can hardly present it as an alternative, can we?..."

Tim, above states that the PEFC et al have no credibility. He certainly doesn't have any, because he ignores the fact that the Australian Forestry Standard is recognized by the International Standards Organization (ISO), a far more credible body than the wholly owned FSC-affiliate in Bonn that purports to give international accreditation to FSC certification. Why doesn't Tim give his surname - I can make an educated guess as to what that is - does it start with C?



Thanks Tim - I've re-posted this in full on the "About" page - here: http://bit.ly/bcmzNq. You weren't the first person to suggest this.

I've also linked back here from the "About" page, so that anyone who wants to discuss this can do so, here.

I suspect Chris has emotional problems. The world is full of people who are lazy paranoid hypocrites. They feel like everything is against them, or the world, and complain like spoiled babies. Finding solutions is much more difficult. I feel sorry for Chris because his life is built on negativity and whining. He is delusional if he thinks this website will help save the forest.

Having worked with a company that has been through the AFS process I can vouch that the systems in place following the introduction of this scheme provided far better environmental outcomes than those in place prior.

Far more transparancy, better communication with stakeholders, better recognition and mgt of environmental values.

We were audited by a stock market listed Australian certification agency (SAI Global), and I can attest that I did not see any rubber stamps: to the contrary, it was a very testing experience & required incredible attention to ensure all required evidence was in place - both documentary & in forest.

I am not so familiar with FSC - but other than the fact that its stakeholders/sharholders include green groups, I cannot see that it is a better system for certification of forest management in Australia or elsewhere.

Is FSC independent? No.

Is it transparant? No.

Are FSC operations fundamentally different to those certified by AFS? No.

Does AFS have the ability to improve forestry operations in Australia? Yes.

Why is the environment movement so against AFS? Because it is able to vindicate a world different from the one they want to impose.

@DoesStingfundThis - Thanks for your analysis. If I ever need a therapist, I'll be in touch.

The purpose of this website is: "to encouraging scrutiny of the Forest Stewardship Council's activities. By doing so, it aims to increase the integrity of the FSC's forest certification scheme." (See the side bar, above, under "About".) I think you'd agree that there's not much point having "solutions" that have blatantly obvious flaws, is there?

And no, Sting does not fund this website. It's run on a voluntary basis.

@Steve - Thanks for this comment. I have a question for you: Does it bother you that AFS, as a member of PEFC, is part of the same certification scheme that certified Asia Pulp and Paper's operations in Sumatra?

For further details, see Greenpeace's recent report "How Sinar Mas is Pulping the Planet", available here: http://bit.ly/dtV6Kl.

Chris, you are ignoring the fact that the forest audit does improve forest operations. It has changed the mindset of many poeple, and there are people in the industry who cannot see the advantages of running a timber business with green fingers, but for the most, we can. The more we involve stakeholders, the more we are prepared to listen, the better it becomes. But this is mostly as a result of forest certification audits - FACT

@ImProCertifcation - Is it true that the better the forest certification audit is, the more improvement we are going to see in forest operations? If so, that suggests that there is a place for criticism of FSC (and, of course, PEFC and other certification schemes) in order to ensure that certified operations are actually meeting the standards.

But when FSC certifies socially and environmentally damaging forestry operations, such as Veracel in Brazil (http://bit.ly/aEAfsQ) or monoculture plantations in Uruguay (http://bit.ly/cmz6TZ) it is actually undermining local struggles.

Do not foget, forest operation is only some part FSC standard. In order to fulfil the standard it is neccessary having forest management system (i.e. system of quality). Any body have it? Perhaps, but this information is secret. This is shows that FSC certifiction is fiction. What the fiction for? Certanely for money....

"PEFC et al have no credibility"

"The Sins Of Greenwashing 2010" -study, which found that 95.6% of green product claims were false, considered PEFC, FSC and even Rainforest Alliance as "legitimate" (p.30).

See:
http://sinsofgreenwashing.org/?dl_id=102
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/Study+finds+most+green+product+claims+misleading/3725232/story.html

@ Mikko Virtanen

May I suggest that before you cite a study you do a bit of research on what you clime is a valid source?

The "sinsofgreenwashing" is not a scientific study, if fact is was conducted by Terrachoice who manage the Ecologo label. Terrachoice is a marketing firm that push a flawed study only top make folks believe that their Ecologo mark is the solution against greenwashing. Terrachoice was caught with it's pants down, and have no credibility what so ever!

Check this out:

http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2010/11/01/terrachoice-greenwashing



The myopic quality of un-informed,ignorant statements made on this site is BRAIN NUMBING.

Fact i; Everytime we in "Developed Northern Hemisphere USE toilet paper we are crapping on Virgin Pulp from what is left of Rain Forests, and REMOVAL of Native peoples from THIER LAND.

Factii; The F.S.C. Standards are "Smoke & Mirrors, deception guile is stock & trade to this manipulitive organisation,as an INFORMED commentator said qote "they are a JOKE"

Fact iii;When consumers start buying Post consumer RECYCLED paper
across the board only then will we be in a position to START looking at the MESS we have gotten into by believing propaganda spewed-out by certifying agencies,who are ALL in league with Multi-Naglycotional CHEMICAL COs & MONSANTO G.M.O.Eucalyptus TREES.

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