An independent observer of the Forest Stewartship Council

Veracel certification would be yet another disaster for FSCTags: Brazil, Plantations, SGS Qualifor

Press release from World Rainforest Movement, 17 September 2007:

FSC at a crossroad: Veracel timber certification would be yet another disaster for FSC

The wood-pulp producing company Veracel has applied for FSC certification of its tree plantations in the Brazilian state of Bahia and the evaluation process is being carried out by the international certification firm SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance). Veracel, a joint venture between Swedish-Finnish Stora Enso and Norwegian-Brazilian Aracruz Cellulose exports almost all the pulp produced in Brazil to overseas markets, where it is converted into paper.

A large number of Brazilian and international organizations are opposing this certification, on the grounds that these plantations have resulted in widespread negative social and environmental impacts -including occupation of indigenous and local communities' lands, rural migration, unemployment, water depletion and pollution, ecosystem destruction, biodiversity loss- which clearly make them uncertifiable. Those and other impacts have been well documented (1) and both the certifying body and the FSC Board have been made aware of the situation.

Much of Veracel's pulp ends up as paper produced and consumed in Europe, where many concerned citizens wish to know if the paper they consume is produced in a socially beneficial and environmentally appropriate manner. This is what the FSC system is supposed to provide them with.

"The German consumers expect the FSC-certifiers to endorse sustainable forest operations, not thousands of hectares of Eucalyptus monocultures sprayed with agrochemicals like in the case of Veracel", emphasizes Peter Gerhardt, from the German organization Robin Wood.

The FSC has been going through a two-year review of its plantations policy as a response to widespread criticism about the issuance of FSC certificates to large-scale monoculture plantations. The Board of Directors adopted the final report of the FSC plantation policy review in February 2007. The policy review recommends that FSC invest more in preventing things going wrong, rather than trying to 'undo' damage once it has been done. Continuing the certification assessment despite the significant shortcomings already documented by local communities affected by Veracel's plantations will be in clear violation of these plantation policy review recommendations.

Jutta Kill, from FERN, stresses that "Whilst the FSC plantations review is still ongoing, it is incomprehensible that an accredited FSC certifier would be willing to jeopardize the trust many FSC Environmental Chamber members have put into this process by considering the certification of one of the most controversial plantations operations in the world."

The Timberwatch Coalition has for many years been campaigning against socially and ecologically destructive fast wood plantations in South Africa, many of which now have the FSC label. Wally Menne, a Timberwatch representative says "It is shocking that SGS seems to have learned nothing from the controversy FSC certification of fast wood plantations has created."

Ricardo Carrere, international coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement says that "Veracel must clearly not receive FSC certification, but at the same time it is essential that the FSC cease to certify fast wood plantations and that it begins to de-certify a large number of plantations that should have never received the FSC label."

The NGOs involved in this process stress that "Certifying Veracel would be yet another disaster for FSC."

Note (1): On August 14 2007, a letter was sent to the FSC Board providing arguments to show that Veracel's plantations can not be certify. The letter is available here. Further information on the issue of large scale tree plantations certification can be accessed here.

For further information or interviews:

In the UK:
Jutta Kill
Phone: ++ 441608651864

Simon Counsell
The Rainforest Foundation - UK
Phone: ++ 44 20 7485 0193

In Germany:
Peter Gerhardt
Robin Wood
Cell-phone: ++49 160 913 62 695

In South Africa:
Wally Menne
Timberwatch Coalition
Phone: ++ 27 82 4442083

In the USA:
Orin Langelle
Global Justice Ecology Project
Phone: +1.802.482.2689
Mobile: +1.802.578.6980

In Uruguay:
Ricardo Carrere
World Rainforest Movement
Phone: ++ 598 2 4132989


Plantations are essential for the world supply of wood and fiber. It's better to have them certified, even one know that we are not talking (in this case) about virgin forests and the top of biodiversity. FSC can be very usefull in promoting the improvement of forest management.

Thanks for your comment Joao. I'll answer each of your points in turn.

"Plantations are essential for the world supply of wood and fiber" - This is an interesting statement, which is often raised by plantation proponents. But the phrase "world supply" hides the fact that per capita consumption of paper and board in high income countries (227.82 kg/person/year) is about 55 times as high as that in low income countries (4.11 kg/person/year). In Brazil, in 2005, per capita consumption of paper and board was 39.49 kilogrammes. In Germany, the figure was 231.65 kilogrammes. "World supply" of paper products goes predominantly to the global North.

It's also worth looking at what all this paper is used for. Packaging and wrapping accounts for about 40% of world paper production, compared to 30% for writing and printing paper. A large percentage of writing and printing paper is used for advertising - in magazines and newspapers as well as mail-order catalogues and junk mail. Meanwhile, paper companies are constantly looking for new uses for paper, precisely to increase consumption of paper (and, of course, to increase their profits).

"It's better to have them certified" - This post is about the certification of Veracel's monoculture industrial tree plantations. The question is whether the plantations comply to FSC's Principles and Criteria. If the plantations do not comply then it would not be better to have Veracel certified.

"even one know that we are not talking (in this case) about virgin forests and the top of biodiversity" - Veracel's plantations were established in part by clearing forests. Veracel has continued to clear forests to establish its plantations and has been fined by the federal environment bureau on several occasions because of its impacts on forests. So, yes we are talking about forests and biodiversity. We are also talking about pollution of streams by chemicals and streams drying up since Veracel and its eucalyptus plantations arrived. In one community, Veracel's plantations have completely surrounded the cemetery. Veracel even planted its trees on land that used to be part of the cemetery. The only way villagers can now get to the cemetery is through the rows of eucalyptus trees. Jobs have been lost, with fewer people employed to work on the plantations than were employed on the land previously. "There are no jobs here now and no money from the eucalyptus," one villager living near Veracel's plantations told me when I visited the area two years ago.

"FSC can be very usefull in promoting the improvement of forest management" - This argument is often raised by FSC and its supporters. In this case it is being used as a justification for certifying Veracel's monoculture eucalyptus plantations. There is no evidence whatsoever that FSC is promoting any improvements. If Veracel were certified, FSC would effectively be greenwashing Veracel's operations. If Veracel is certified, both SGS and FSC will lose what little credibility they have.

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