An independent observer of the Forest Stewartship Council

Galicia, Spain: formal complaint submitted against NORFOR and ASITags: Galicia, Spain, Plantations, Accreditation controls, SGS Qualifor

The Galician environmental group Asociacion Pola Defensa da Ria (APDR) has submitted a formal complaint to the FSC about the certification of plantation company NORFOR and the assessment of it's certifier, SGS that was undertaken by FSC's Accreditation Services International. In their complaint, APDR argues that the FSC-ASI report on SGS's certification of NORFOR is not only of very low quality, but it also fails to address the majority of the criticisms of NORFOR presented by a number of NGOs. Although the FSC-ASI report on the certification recognises a serious lack of compliance with FSC's principles and criteria, it does not analyse more controversial points such as relations with local communities and benefits from the forests.

The omissions identified by APDR once again highlight FSC's inability to control the certificates that it's accredited certifiers are issuing - but they are perhaps not surprising. NORFOR's FSC certificate was awarded in 2004 by SGS. It has been heavily criticized by local groups for being socially, environmentally and economically unsustainable, therefore blatantly failing to comply with FSC's principles and criteria. In 2006, the Galician environmental movement decided to withdraw its support for the FSC. This was due to the FSC's failure to suspend the NORFOR certificate, therefore undermining the credibility of the certification scheme as a whole. After several informal complaints, presented by APDR, Greenpeace and WWF/Adena, FSC's Accreditation Services International (FSC-ASI) finally undertook an inspection of SGS's certification of NORFOR in May 2007. Even though the FSC-ASI report recognised that NORFOR did not comply with FSC's principles and criteria, the Eucalyptus plantations managed by the company continues to be FSC certified. Local expert group APDR was excluded from participation in SGS's November 2007 audit of NORFOR, and recent field visits from APDR representatives suggest that there has been no change in the way NORFOR carries out its forest management activities.

In late 2007, the auditors admitted to having not read most of the documentation submitted by NGOs. Moreover, ASI director, Hubert de Bonafos, pledged that a social expert would take part in the ASI inspection of the certificate to ensure the communities were benefiting from the FSC concession - but nobody with this expertise was ever appointed.

APDR demands the immediate suspension of NORFOR's FSC certificate, the suspension of SGS as an FSC certifier and the revision of all FSC certificates awarded by SGS.

A full dossier on the FSC certification of NORFOR is available here.


I see a pattern developing.

I tried to get some answers out of FSC, and ASI. Hubert sent me a letter basically brushing me off. I wonder if it sounds like letters others have sent.

Dear Mr Nickarz,

FSC certification is based on an open and transparent process. Stakeholder consultation is a very important part of a process which is also based on clear open and transparent certification requirements; i.e. the FSC certification standard used to evaluate compliance of the certificate holder.

The FSC procedures require stakeholder comments such as yours to be addressed by the certified company first, in line with their dispute resolution procedure, and by the certification body as part of their stakeholder consultation process. It is very important that you raise your complaint formally and in writing to SmartWood first so that they can follow-up on your comments. SmartWood will then have the obligation to investigate and respond to the issues you have raised. Once your receive SmartWood formal response and if you are not satisfied with this response, then you are welcome to contact us. However, to follow up on your concerns, we will ask you to provide us with a copy of your original formal complaint, with specific details regarding the non-compliances you have witnessed in the field and SmartWood formal response.

This is essential so that we can thoroughly investigate the issues you have raised and so that we can respond in details to your concerns in an open and transparent way.

So I would like to encourage you to submit to SmartWood a formal and detailed complaint first, so that they can respond formally to your concerns.

Please note that ASI complaint procedure is available on ASI website: http://www.accreditation-services.com

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you need additional information.

Best regards,

Hubert de Bonafos
Managing Director
ASI - Accreditation Services International GmbH

I must say that as FSC members Friends of the Irish Environement lodged a comprehensive complaint/dispute about the FSC process in Ireland in June 2007. Mr de Bonafos from ASI appeared to be given the authority to address the dispute. Initially he appeared to be helpful but when it came down to addressing the complaint, and despite numerous requests, no response has been given. FSC and Mr de Bonafos continue to ignore our numerous e-mails completely.

This leaves us at a loss as to how to resolve clearly evidenced environmental and social concerns .

Therefore we must conclude that the FSC dispute resolution procedure appears to be completely ineffective and has wasted a lot of out very limited resources.

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