An independent observer of the Forest Stewartship Council

FSC in Russia: 'sustainable forest management' or simply money and politics?Tags: Russia, WWF, Greenpeace, Accreditation controls, SGS Qualifor, Control Union, Rainforest Alliance SmartWood

FSC-Watch has been sent the following article by Svetlana Alekseeva, Chief Editor of "Forest Certification". It raises a number of serious questions about the motivation of various 'stakeholders' involved in FSC certifications in Russia.

Students of the history of global forest management and policy will recognise some of the underlying themes and concerns of this article. Over the last 100 years or so, wherever large 'forest frontier' areas come under extensive exploitation, the addition of new (often legal) requirements for 'sustainable forest management' are skillfully used by the larger interests to squeeze out their competitors, enabling them to consolidate their land-holdings and reduce their competitors' market share. For example, the 1975 Pearse Royal Commission on forestry in British Columbia showed how the monopolistic winners in this scramble for land and resources had, through 'sustained yield' policies, consolidated their power to such an extent that they had become largely ungovernable - leading to poor economic returns, poor environmental management, and perversion of public policy making.

Some observers of the FSC have realized the potential for FSC certification to be used in precisely the same way: larger companies can gain a market advantage over their smaller (often local) competitors, by being more able to afford expensive certification; by having the support of international interests; and by being more adept at manipulating (and funding) 'partnerships' with NGOs (who thus bring public credibility). The following article suggests that what we are now witnessing in Russia is the use of the FSC as a mechanism for this kind of consolidation of landholdings and 'market capture' - and it might have little to do with better forest management.

The article also, once again, raises questions about the role of WWF. In a February 2007 statement, WWF claimed that there is a "revolution in Russian forestry", pointing to the exponential rise in the number of FSC certificates issued there. However, one respected Russian forestry expert - who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals - has told FSC-Watch that "there is no revolution in Russian forestry". Moreover, we are told, "there are contradictions between the FSC's requirements and Russian law".

In February, WWF pointed specifically to the far-eastern Russian company Terneyles, as an exemplar of this new 'revolution', exclaiming "In 2002, Terneyles, the leading timber exporter in the Russian Far East, came under attack by international environmental organizations for logging a virgin forest that is home to endangered tigers. Sensitive to the NGO attacks and pressure from its Japanese trading partner, Sumitomo, which wanted environmentally sourced wood, Terneyles turned to WWF for help. As part of its commitment to FSC certification, the company altered its logging practices to minimize impact in tiger areas...Today, Terneyles is a member of the Russia [Forest and Trade Network], with millions of hectares of its concessions now FSC certified". However, as is rightly pointed out in the article below, Terneyles's certifier, SGS, has failed to produce any reports from its surveillance visits in September 2005 and 2006, in contravention of FSC's requirements. Russian stakeholders, wondering whether WWF's claims for Terneyles are justified, have sought to obtain these reports, but to no avail. The report of a 2006 FSC Secretariat accreditation inspection of SGS's certification of Terneyles has similarly failed to materialise. WWF has not stated publicly how much money it has received from Terneyles for its 'membership' of the WWF Russia Forest and Trade Network.

Far from WWF's misplaced hype about a 'revolution' in forestry, what appears to be taking place is more akin to the shady backroom deals that many Russians now suffer as 'public life' in their country.

FSC and High Conservation Value Forest in Russia

The declaration of large areas of forest as 'virgin forest' by Russian NGOs is giving rise to more and more conflicts. Underlying this conflict is 'research' into the forest which seems to serve the interests of specific interests. How this works is that NGOs have agreed with large Russian industrial companies about research into the status of virgin forest in some region of Russia, or across all the country. After the 'research', NGOs have published maps of the "virgin" forest for some region. Later on, the maps are used by auditors for FSC certification assessments. It is clear that the virgin forest is High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) according to FSC's requirements (Principal #9). In order to accomplish FSC certification, a forest company should refuse from harvesting in the area, or carry out special protection measures. It is big disadvantage for the company.

The first such Russian project was supported by IKEA in 2001-02. The main executor of the work was Greenpeace Russia. IKEA paid $1m to Greenpeace and they developed maps of virgin forest for Russia. Later on, however, Russian experts found out that many "virgin" forest sites are situated in regions where IKEA has competitors (see "Russian Forest Newsletter" # 23 (49) June 2004). Many Russian forest industrial companies were displeased, but after a few meetings between NGOs and FSC, the conflict was suppressed.

The second conflict happened in 2004 in the Far East region of Russia, concerning the big forest industrial company "Terneyles". USA forest companies paid to Russian regional NGOs about $5m to undertake investigations. The result of this was, as anticipated, 700,000 hectares of forest was defined as "virgin" and should be put 'off limits' for harvesting for the purpose of FSC certification. However, the auditor who carried out FSC certification did not recognize the area as virgin forest. The Russian forest company and auditor (SGS) were compromised after issuing the certificate. NGOs sent a complaint to the FSC. Later on (in June 2006) FSC carried out an inspection but the report of the audit was not published. SGS also carried out two inspections (2005, 2006) but has still not issued the reports. The big project (1.4 million hectares certified forest) became secret. Russian stakeholders could not get information about the results of the inspections.

The third conflict happened in Komi region of Russia between the company "Leskom" and the "Silver Taiga Foundation" in 2006, and continues at present. "Silver Taiga" is organization which was set up by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for development of a "Model forest" project. "Silver Taiga" signed an agreement with forest industrial company "Mondi" and Forest Region Agency for investigating virgin forest in the region. Mondi is the main competitor of Leskom. [FSC-Watch note: and has come under severe criticism for its FSC-certified operations in its home country of South Africa - see here and here]. When Leskom started to undertake FSC certification, Silver Taiga declared a large part of the forest as "virgin". The auditor who carried out certification (Control Union) did not recognize the area as "virgin". Nevertheless, FSC took Silver Taiga's side, and the contradictions intensified as NGOs pressed for the suspension of of CU's accreditation. The conflict now involves many Russian NGOs (including Greenpeace, WWF, etc), auditor companies (Control Union, LesTest, Smartwood) the regional government and other stakeholders.

Now FSC tries to protect NGOs which carried out the works in Russia tendentiously and use FSC certification for that - because the National FSC Work Group, CB's representatives, local experts and reviews of almost of all certification projects in Russia were formed by NGOs. At the present time, FSC has a confused situation in relation to development FSC in Russia. The more the FSC helps to fulfill NGO projects, the more it loses status as an independent and professional certification system. Conflict by conflict, FSC demonstrates itself as an international political alliance. Certainly, in the present moment, FSC has a high reputation in world but there are more than 17 million hectares of FSC certified forest in Russia and the area will increase soon. The loss of reputation in Russia can impact on the reputation of the FSC worldwide.

Svetlana Alekseeva, Chief Editor of "Forest Certification"


Some explanations to the text above.

The small magazine "Forest certification" is founded by Alexander Yakovlev, one of Russian FSC auditors that migrates from one certification body to another. He was the head of audit of Terneyles company (mentioned above), and had to leave SGS after scandal with low quality audit and ignoring the rights of local stakeholders (NGOs and indigenous communities). Then he came to Control Union, where organized the audit of Leskom - and now there is an ongoing scandal, again related to low quality audit and ignoring of stakeholders. So probaly he has some reasons to present some biased information.

About "mapping of virgin forests" - this is about mapping of intact forest landscapes. It started from European Russia by Greenpeace and Biodiversity conservation centre in 1996 (NW Russia). In 1999 IKEA supported the Global forest watch activity in mapping of intact forest landscapes. The decision was made by all of us that GFW partners and Greenpeace will work together with the same metods. The overall technical coordination was made by me (Alexey Yaroshenko, Greenpeace) in 1999-2000 and by Dmitry Aksenov (Socio-Ecological Union) since 2002. The funding of each organisation was organized according to it's own rules - for example, funding of Greenpeace work was totally separated from GFW-IKEA funding and based on private donations. The process of IFL mapping was completly transparent for any stakeholder, and methodology is well described, at least in Russian. The rezults of this mapping are well known and recognized by majority of stakeholders. There were also some regional initiatives on mapping virgin forests in finer scale for some regions (including Komi) - I will not comment it as Greenpeace was not involved.

About FSC and sustainability of forestry. Yes, there are many problems with FSC implementation. And it is true that there are many contradictions between Russian forestry regulations and FSC demands (as Russian forestry regulations do not allow sustainable forestry). And it is true that sampling is too small, especially for large concessions of million hectares. And that there is a lack of qualified auditors. And many other problems (that are related to any other certification scheme). But what is positive in FSC - is that it gives us some tool to improve the quality of forest management, and this tool really works, despite all problems.

Ideed, "Forest certification" is 'small' journal containing only 40 pages and have 1-2 issues per year. The journal is unique(english/russian)wcich acts during 7 years - for Russian independent edition is good time. It is founded by "LesTest" Foundation and not Mr. Yakovlev(you can check in the Mass Media Ministry of Russian Federation, Registration number:PI-77-3436). The journal was issued ander WWF's patronage untill 2002. Before 2006 Editorial Board of the journal includes Mr.Andrey Ptichnikov(FSC office),Vladimir Chuprov(Greenpeace), Ury Pautov(WWF),Mihail Karpachevsky(FSC National Initiative). In 2006 after well-know attacs to Control Union's project (in particular Complaint to FSC), and discredited FSC system, the persons were expelled from the Editorial Board.

In particular, in the journal were bublished articles from WWF, Greenpeace, FSC,GFTN, IFBWW,IKEA, SmartWood, SGS, GFA,Ilim-Palp,UP-Kymmene,Terneyles and from many Russian organizations. Their articles from China,UK, South Africa,Netherlands,France,Finland,Germany, etc. Indeed, the journal is small as does not receive big money from WWF,Greenpeace,FSC and other international organizations.

Unfortunately, the texts about FSC certification in Russia posted to FSC Watch site by Alexander Yakovlev and Svetlana Alexeeva are full of false and distorted information.
I am very sorry that your site publish so unverified information.
To make you get a feeling of that I will just comment some statements in the the last comment about Forest Cetification journal by Svetlana Alexeeva posted May 31 2007.
1) I am very suprised with Svetlana Alexeeva who presents herself as an editor of Forest Certification journal. I am sorry, I cannot consider that this journal exists because its last issue has been published in 2002 when this project has been still supported by WWF. Therefore when Svetlana is saying that the journal exists for 7 years, it sounds funny.
2) This journal was really founded by Lestest - consultant company. But this company in turn was founded by Alexander Yakovlev. Therefore, why to play with words? Lestet means Alexander Yakovlev
3)In the comment I mentioned as the member of Editorial board of the journal (before 2007). This is true. However, members of this Editorial board never met or be contacted on the content of the journal. This means that the journal all these 7 years just used my name for its own purpose. This is of course my fault that I had not stepped down from the board earlier. The only excuse is that I was sure that the journal stopped to exist in 2002 (see number 1)
4) However, I should say that neither me nor my colleagues from the Editorial board have been ever informed on the fact that we had been expelled from the Editorial board. And what is the link between to be on the board and be accused in "attack" on Control Union and "discreditation" of FSC? Perhaps now you Svetlana Alexeeva, the editor-in-chief will provide me with the Statutes of the journal, where such a reason is mentioned?

In relation to ‘revolution’ in Far East (Russia) there is information of press 12 October 2006(after FSC audit in June 2006):

"JSC “Terneyles” undermines the regional forestry, the damage of forest is millions rubles. Their facts were discovered during the inspection, which carried out by Russian Nature Inspectorate (Rosprirodnadzor) of Primorsky region (Russia)".

”Illegal harvesting of JSC “Terneyles” in Terneylessky leshoz entail the damage about 0.5 millions EUR. The report was sent to OVD Terneylessry district (Police) and Directorate of Public Prosecutions”

Russian Information Agency “PrimaMedia”

Mr. Karpachevskiy, LesTest is not consultant company and is LesTest Foundation. LesTest is not Mr. Yakovlev and is LesTest.

Nikolay Fedorov,
CSTI, Director
(Founder of LesTest)

i wish to get some of ur books.i will like to work with u here in nigeria,

Dickson Egba, what exactly you wish. Please send to me more:magazine@fcp.ru

In order to accomplish FSC certification, a forest company should refuse from harvesting in the area, or carry out special protection measures. It is big disadvantage for the company.

John, there is another way for that. A company presents $1 mln to NGOs which are fonders of FSC and receives the certificates. This is well-known practic in the world.

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