SCS certification of Jurua Forestal, Brazil: FSC plumbs new depths of bad practiceTags: Brazil, Accreditation controls, Certifier conflict of interest, SCS
To some people, such as Mayor Salvatore Perillo of Ocean City, New Jersey, USA, the FSC represents the 'Gold Standard' of forest certification; an assurance that wood comes from well-managed and properly independently audited sources. But Mayor Perillo, and many others, would do well to know what lies behind the FSC's claims. One of the more shocking examples - Jurua Forestal Ltda, which is felling timber in the Brazilian rainforest - is a potential supplier of ipe timber for the imminent repair of Perillo's Ocean City sea-front boardwalks.
Jurua Forestal was first certified for FSC by the California-based Scientific Certification Systems Inc in April 2002. At the time of the certification, Jurua held 25,000 hectares of rainforest in the Brazilian state of Para, but was reported by SCS to be exploiting 2,000 hectares per year. The company was therefore known at the time of FSC certification to the operating on the shockingly unsustainable logging 'cycle' of 12.5 years. Even SCS were forced to note that "this farm will only have enough wood to supply the sawmill alone for a period of 10 to 15 years. JURUÁ is aware that it must find other areas to supply the sawmill so that it can maintain the 30-year harvest cycle on this area". SCS nevertheless proceeded to issue the certificate, and there has been no report subsequently that Jurua has obtained other areas of forest - not that this would make much difference to the 'sustainability' of what has already happened.
Mayor Salvatore Perillo of Ocean City, New Jersey, USA, wants to believe in the reliability of the FSC, but there is much evidence to suggest he shouldn't
A further major flaw in the certification was whether the forest should or shouldn't have been classified as 'High Conservation Value Forest'. SCS reported that the area consisted of a patchwork of diverse lowland rainforest types on different soils. A study was also conducted into the primate diversity of the forest, revealing that no fewer than seven primate species were present. Despite this, SCS decided not to classify the area as HCVF, which would have led to tighter certification requirements.
SCS did, however, insist on no fewer than 23 'conditions' for the issuance of the certificate, along with 14 'recommendations' (a full copy of SCS's Public Summary Certification report, which also includes the results of subsequent annual audits, is available for download below). But although SCS were evidently aware of the multiple problems with Jurua Forestal's operation from the outset, they nevertheless failed to use the standard FSC practice of defining Major or Minor 'Corrective Action Requests' for the company, which would enable FSC to keep a close check on whether Jurua was dealing with any issues which might conflict with their certification status.
However, from 2002, and having received their certification fee from Jurua, the quality of SCS's annual auditing appears to have rapidly declined. For example, in 2002, SCS made the important observation that Jurua's logging operations were causing serious damage to the rainforest in which they were working. The certifier noted as a 'condition' in their Public Report that "To avoid the formation of large clearings created by cutting tree that occur in blocks, JURUA must for the cutting season 2002, include in their seedling trees demarcation procedures, the inclusion of seedling trees some of this tree that occurs in blocks." SCS also noted that Jurua "must do the monitoring of the opening road impact and skidding, including aspects about remain vegetation damage, soil exposition and quantification of young tree (sic) affected." As FSC-Watch has previously reported, the best scientific evidence available shows that such damage often leads to rainforest's increased susceptibility to fire and complete destruction.
However, when SCS returned six months later, they found that little had improved, and had to report merely that the certification 'condition' was "in excecution". A year later still, and the same thing happened. Then in 2004, the annual audit report noted that "an extension [of this condition] is granted until the 2005 audit".
However, come the 2005 audit report, we are unable to ascertain whether this or any other 'condition' was met or not, because SCS simply stopped reporting on them. The entire annual audit report for 2005 consists of the following:
"Based on observations from the 2004 audit field visits, interviews, and documentation reviews, the auditor concluded that JURUÁ FLORESTAL LTDA., Fazenda Arataú, continued to comply very well with the FSC Principles and Criteria. There were 3 aspects of their management program that were deficient with the certification standards, but the team still found the program to be in overall compliance with FSC Principles 1 through 9. The auditor recommends that JURUÁ FLORESTAL LTDA. continue with certification as a "well managed forest" for its natural forests in Fazenda Arataú, Novo Repartimento region, in the state of Pará, assuming that they continue progress with the CARs."
In complete contravention of FSC's rules, no information is given as to how all the Corrective Action requests or conditions raised in the previous year's annual audit were closed out, or whether they were Major CARs or not (which would have required the withdrawal of the certificate). At least one of the 'conditions' had been outstanding for no less than three years.
From 2005 onwards, and again in serious contravention of FSC's rules, SCS appears to have produced no further annual audit reports on Jurua whatsoever, and certainly none are currently available on SCS's website. Jurua should have been re-assessed for certification after 5 years, i.e. on or about April 2007, but there is no record of this having been done either. FSC-Watch has been unable to locate any record on the FSC wesbite that indicates that the FSC Secretariat's unit responsible for accreditation of certifiers is even aware of the shoddy and unnacceptable performance of SCS with this certificate, let alone that it has taken the kind of action which it self-evidently warrants. Jurua nevertheless remains on the current FSC list of certified timber producing companies.
Having already learned that one of Ocean City's other potential suppliers of FSC-certified ipe timber is, in fact illegally logging in indigenous rainforest lands in Peru, this new relevation will probably leave Mayor Perillo of Ocean City wondering whether there is any end to the fraudulent claims being perpetrated under the FSC system.
SCS's Public Summary and annual audit report on Jurua Forestal is available here: