An independent observer of the Forest Stewartship Council

Ireland: 'Remove FSC accreditation from Irish Forestry Certification Initiative'Tags: Ireland, Absence of national standards, national initiatives

FSC-Watch has reported many times on the FSC credibility disaster that has been allowed to persist in Ireland for nearly a decade. Tellingly, despite the glaring failures, neither the FSC Secretariat, ASI, the international Board nor the national initiative itself have had to competence to put 'FSC Ireland' onto a credible path. Unsurprisingly, local NGOs are now totally exasperated. Even some parts of the private sector that entered the FSC process in good faith are now de-camping to PEFC instead.

We have now been asked to post the following by several excluded Irish environmental and social stakeholders. We fully support their call for FSC Ireland to be completely scrapped, and the process restarted with proper multi-stakeholder input and balance. In order to give it a chance of success, we believe that the WoodMark-issued certificate of the state forestry company Coillte should be suspended and their influence expunged from the national FSC process.

FSC Ireland: An Honest Appraisal

The situation in Ireland as regards the whole FSC standard-setting process is now unquestionably an utter failure. The following list is no more than a summary of the problems currently plaguing the process. The details, if added, would simply make this posting so huge as to be near to unreadable.

Ireland's National FSC Initiative, the Irish Forestry Certification Initiative (IFCI), have currently approximately euros 1,500 to their name. IFCI have no likely source of funding for 2008, and no guarantee for 2009. Their funding application for 2008 was refused due to the complete failure of IFCI to date.

There are reasons for this refusal of funding. After ten years, there is no national standard. The proposed 'third draft standard' was rejected out of hand by FSC. The previous 'second draft standard' was invalid for several similar reasons - not least that it did not even contain the FSC P&C.

As a result, after ten years there is not even a DRAFT national standard.

Certification, however, continues apace, but without any input whatever from any stakeholders at all.

Despite strenuous efforts on the part of the many, many NGOs and individuals outside IFCI, there is no open door to join.

Rather, many who show any real interest have been met with open hostility.

This hostility has included threats of legal action, witnessed by representatives of FSC itself, from certain members of the IFCI Steering Committee.

Within IFCI itself, there is absolutely no agreement on a way forward.

Despite great efforts which resulted, late in 2007, in Irish representatives and FSC meeting in Bonn, and creating an action plan which was given FSC approval as "the way forward", there is still no consensus in IFCI in support of this plan.

Though FSC had provided encouragement and signs of interest in the Irish crisis during 2007, there is currently no indication that FSC can or will provide further assistance or the promised financial support.

Further, FSC has allegedly indicated that the hard work done in Bonn last year did not, actually, result in a plan of action, but merely one suggestion of a way forward.

IFCI has, as a result, proceeded to continue as before, essentially ignoring the Bonn initiative.

This, despite there being numerous unresolved issues, identified by FSC itself, within IFCI relating to: - membership - communications - chamber affiliation - organisational structure - organisational procedures - organisational process - standards development

There are also apparently unresolved issues about member groups exceeging the limit for terms on the Steering Committee, and several breaches of the company's own Articles of Association, for which there are legal consequences.

If this were not enough to bury IFCI, and according to FSC rules it SHOULD be (though the group remains, paradoxically, the accredited National Initiative), the organisation's membership numbers have fallen steadily over the years and are currently at about one fifth their original level, and probably lower.

On top of this there are numerous unresolved disputes and grievances both from within and without IFCI.

The organisation failed to address these in any way that has been acceptable to the people raising these issues and they were then raised with FSC.

FSC, however, refused to even consider them and suggested that stakeholders re-present them to IFCI.

The list goes on and on...

For example, IFCI has recently lost the membership of ITGA, the Irish Timber Growers' Association, which is currently pursuing PEFC certification due in the main to the utter failure of IFCI and FSC to regulate and standardise certification in Ireland.

There is no indication that this key national forestry association has any intention of considering FSC certification again.

While still nominally hanging in there, Ireland's largest environmental NGO is also on the verge of departing also.

This is an enormous list, considering we have not gone into any actual detail, just summarised the issues.

Taking a step back from this, away from the day-to-day struggles, and looking at it in the cold light of day, it is a near-perfect description of a disaster. One could hardly have planned it, it is so bad.

With this in mind, what exactly are people expecting to see happen that will make things better?

What exactly does FSC expect to happen that will turn this organisational abomination into something resembling a viable national initiative?

What exactly are IFCI's own Steering Committee expecting to happen to provide the vast amounts of required credibility and remove the deep layers of suspicion and outright hostility that stand between many stakeholders and hopes of their involvement in IFCI?

None of the above issues are resolved. Most continue from over a year past, many for over five years.

Just looking at this coldly, we have to ask whether any effort at all to revive or rebuild or reinvigorate this organisation with the existing cast of main players, with or without fully-paid managers, is ever likely to do anything other than waste more time, money and effort.

That time is no longer available.

The money is no longer available.

The effort is available but the barriers to it being actualised are, it would seem, insurmountable.


This is sheer madness.

The root cause, however, is simple and easily dealt with: FSC.

IFCI remain as the accreditied National Initiative for Ireland. FSC has refused to withdraw this accreditation.

The reason for this refusal is unknown, but we cannot see any feasible possibilities other than FSC's need to be seen, internationally, to be taking the Irish Crisis in hand and dealing with it effectively.

Accepting that IFCI does not deserve accreditation AND acting on this would suggest a failure in Ireland, show that FSC has not resolved the problems.

Ireland is not in a position to wait any longer. After ten years of complete failure, there is no sign whatever that either IFCI or FSC are taking the urgency of the situation seriously. We simply cannot wait until 2009 or 2010 in the hope that things will change. They will not.

The solution is plain. The solution lies in the hands of FSC itself.

Remove the accreditation of IFCI.

Unless and until this is done, there will be no progress, no inclusion, no stakeholder input, no process. There will be no national standard.

The shameful mess of FSC involvement in this country will continue to hamper efforts by NGOs rather than assist them.

The shameful mess of FSC involvement in Ireland will continue to cast an ugly shadow across the reputation of FSC itself.

The shameful mess of FSC involvement in Ireland will, by extension, defile the reputation, credibility and hard work of FSC-accredited groups right around the globe.

Irish Social and Environmental Stakeholders


The FSC's Irish NI has been run by the same crew since its inception. Its 8 years later and still not close to a passable result by FSC procedural requirements and P&C.

That's not good enough.

This underachieving NI - IFCI - remains an accredited FSC NI despite numerous failures to comply with FSC guidelines and requirements, as well as its own Articles as a company, of which FSC is well aware.

That's not good enough

The content of draft standards to date embraces an Irish landscape with forests comprised for the most part of non-native species that produce low value wood, the production of which relies on clearfelling and chemicals that pollute the environment.

That's not good enough.

Numbers of people and organisations in Ireland who support FSC P&C have been alienated from the standard development process by IFCI members' behavior. They are still not being listened to.

That's not good enough.

The FSC intervened to bring in excluded groups and created the appearance of a new pathway, only to reveal itself as incompetent, unfocused, and unable to hold up its end, ultimately failing to uphold its own processes, principles and guidelines.

That's not good enough.

FSC is supposed to be an independent 3rd party process that provides assurance to consumers, yet in Ireland the primary beneficiary of the label - Coillte - is allowed to maintain an inappropriate influence over the standard-setting process.

That's not good enough.

The certificate awarded to Coillte and follow-up audits have been roundly criticized, even by FSC itself, and numerous conditions remain unmet on the ground. The FSC was supposed to provide credible claims. Here it provides only dubious distinction.

That's not good enough.

Instead of acknowledging its own mistakes in accrediting IFCI and maintaining the accreditation - in short, instead of assuming accountability - FSC proposes to let the people who figuratively speaking keep crashing the car into the tree - namely IFCI - continue to take the wheel. While IFCI members merit seats as stakeholders at the table in the standards development process, FSC proposes to continue to let them cook a dinner they already burned long ago.

That's not good enough

Excluded groups came back to the table in good faith to allow FSC to remedy the problems in Ireland, and that good faith effort has been betrayed. The FSC now meets concern and criticism with silence and denial.

That's not good enough.

The FSC process in Ireland is an utter failure that completely betrays the letter and spirit of FSC certification.

That's not good enough.

Greenwashing isn't part of the solution, its part of the problem. When it comes to the future of Irish forests, greenwashing just isn't good enough. It is time for real solutions that produce meaningful certification in Ireland, or else it is time for FSC to close up shop here.

Irish stakeholders, future generations, Irish forests, and the FSC itself, deserve a competently and effectively run standard development process that adheres to the letter and spirit of FSC principles, criteria and guidelines. To date, they haven't gotten it, and it seems ludicrous to place any further confidence in the ability of the current IFCI Steering Committee to produce such a result. The FSC must redeem the FSC process in Ireland by adhering to its own accreditation guidelines for NIs, acknowledging the profound shortcomings in the Irish process as directed by IFCI, and repudiating the IFCI Steering Committee, and doing so forthwith.


Steve Harrington
(M.F. Yale School of Forestry, former FSC regional standards coordinator for the southwestern United States; former board member of the FSC-US and its national Technical Standards Committee, which reviewed and harmonized all FSC regional standards developed for the United States. Worked with numerous FSC-certified forest managers and landowners and FSC accredited certifiers, and participated in two certification assessments, for one of which he wrote the report. Also an Irish citizen, currently residing in the Republic of Ireland.)_

Forest Friends Ireland/Cáirde na Coille support the analysis of the dire consequences of FSC certification in the case of Ireland, which have been outlined above.
John Haughton

Dear All, I fully support the analysis of Steve Harrington, and find it disgraceful that the FSC has allowed Ireland to plant far and away the greatest annual percentage of exotic species in the EU, close to at least 80%. In fact, there is no other EU member, apart from Ireland, that plants a majority of exotic species annually.
When the FSC first came to Ireland many of us thought Irish forestry would change from exotic species industrial forestry towards the model practiced by all other EU countries where native species make up over 50% of annual plantings. As it has turned out, things have actually become worse with the arrival of the FSC and the formation of IFCI. Now Irish environmentally damaging exotic species forestry has the imprimatur of FSC certification.
As a result and naturally enough,FSC is rapidly losing practically all credibility among people like myself who want to see a forestry that truly respects the environment and Ireland's native woodland heritage.
Sincerely Ray Monahan
Castlegregory, Co. Kerry

Everything said above is true. If anything, this is a moderate, balanced, view. There are plenty of us across all Ireland who have known for years that FSC is a sham and this has been proven not just by the way IFCI operates and shuts everyone but the little clique out ut even more by the way


What Irish people want is for other FSC-accredited groups around the world to



On behalf of People Against Pesticides, an organisation that was directly involved in FSC in Ireland for many years, I would like to say that we support 100%, and more, the postings above.

FSC have supported and continue to support a process that has done nothing but lend credibility to Coillte, who have systematically irrevocably altered and destroyed our landscape.

As we have done on many occasions, People Against Pesticides are calling on FSC to immediately withdraw their accreditation of the Irish National Initiative, IFCI.

Ciaran Hughes
People Against Pesticides

One question has to be asked: Why is FSC not exercising its authority and finally liquidates IFCI??? That would pave the way for a new initiative, whose first task would be to drastically limit the influence vested interests have exercised so far. The effects of sitka mono culture can be seen everywhere. It is high time to put ecology before economy.

I do wholeheartedly agree with the comments above. Especially Steve's comment describes very well how I see the situation.
I had put some effort into the process for about two years. I have now decided to withdraw from it.
I don't know if IFCI is an Irish phenomenon or not, I do not know enough about other countries' NIs. But I do know that FSC seems to accept that an NI is kept alive despite of the fact that it is not professionaly working according to FSC standards. I have now decided that FSC itself, as well as other bodies like ASI and certifiers are lacking credibility in their proceedings, and that I will not spend energy and time anymore taking any part in this bizarre system, apart from this post here.
I feel that other countries' NIs that function well, and have developed a proper national FSC standard, should have a close look at this case, because this one discredits their own efforts.

Dear all
There are far too many negative and innacurrate comments about the FSC process in Ireland above to go through each in detail but a few pertinent comments should at least provide some insight into past and potential future forest practise:

- Througout the 20th Century in Ireland forestry was based on relatively simple models and establsihed on poor land resulting in a limited number of forest species and the clearfell system.
- Prior to FSC and Sustainable Forest Management Principles (SFM)forestry was completely dominated almost entirely by economic interests.
- Since SFM and FSC forestry practise has improved significantly. Better land is now being planted with a greater diversity of species.
- Biodiversity, consultation and social issues are now part and parcel of forestry practise.
- Forestry uses much less pesticides than most other land uses such as agriculture.

Change on the timescale outlined above has been relatively quick and though obviously not quick enough for some, these changes are positive. It takes q lot of work to produce change. The advent of FSC and IFCI can only accelerate this change. There is a long way to go on this but it cannot suceed if all intersts are not represented and that includes economic interests. FSC is not a process exclusively for Social and environmental interests.

There are many comments above that indicate little or no support for FSC in Ireland. There have been serious problems especially in recent times with IFCI mainly - in my view - because stakeholders refuse to engage whilst Coillte retain their certificate and unless these stakeholders get 100% of what they desire. This is not going to happen and I suggest that if you support FSC then engage constructively with IFCI to propel this change. Otherwise walk away from the process.

Everyone is entitled to their viewpoint and if this process is not for you thats fine. There is no other process in Ireland though the PEFC is likely to come in soon. If it does, certification will occur with very little input or scope for Social and environmental interests. FSC provides the opperunity for equal input from all thgree stakeholder groups. Every five years the national FSC standard is updated by all interst groups - this is how you can influence change.

IFCI has achieved much with limited resources and fundamental differances of opinion since its inception. All involved are engaging in good faith and though mistakes have been made these were not done so deliberately. FSC recognises that IFCI is doing what it can but IFCI can only cuceed if stakeholders engage constructively.


Ddclan Little

To all,

As the current acting chair of the National Initiative in Ireland, I want to invite all interested stakeholders to participate in developing the national standard in Ireland.

To those who don't know me, I am a social forester and forest ecologist who educates undergraduates in environmental responsible forest management. I am a fairly recent member of the NI. Membership is open to all interested individuals and organisations, and we would welcome constructive participation by all. (see the IFCI website for membership forms.)

We have different points of view. All of us should be able to participate. No one is excluded from IFCI. To quote from the FSC Plantations Review Policy Working Group Final Report : ''As members of FSC, we are all engaged in building something quite exceptional. We are creating an organisation, for which there are few models for us to learn from. And, in so doing, we have chosen a highly challenging organisational model. When, as we do, you deliberately bring together people and organisations with very different needs, aspirations and views, it is almost guaranteed to result in conflict, which can be either positive or negative.'' Let's turn this conflict into something which produces a constructive standard for Ireland, involving all stakeholders, rather than something which puts people of being involved in our actual goal- which is the national standard.

There are several reasons and ways to be involved: to serve on the Steering Group, to serve on a Technical Working Group, to keep abreast of developments, and/or to make submissions during public consultation phases of the standard.

At a meeting with various stakeholders including the various different members of the NI as well as many of the people who posted comments here, almost everyone in the room agreed we wanted to move forward with developing a national forest standard in Ireland. The challenge is how to do that well. (This particular meeting worked fairly well because participants agreed to ground rules, including: the focus of the meeting is on the future and to ensure bad points of past not repeated; mutual respect; no attribution; and no slander.) Let's learn from that. Let's move forward, by working together, by having direct, constructive conversations, and by acknowledging that although we may not agree on issues, the only way to build an FSC standard is to respect each other, participate, and understand that all of our divergent or similar interests are equally valid. We are all stakeholders. Come join IFCI and help make the participatory process happen well from the inside.

Forest Friends Ireland/Cáirde na Coille withdrew from this process for several reasons which we stated at the time. Firstly, there was the expectation by those who sought to control the process for their own ends and effectively to rubber stammp the status quo. This was done in different ways, one of which was to exclude two representatives of NGOs who would not conform. Anyone who checks back on the process can get chapter and verse on this. Secondly there was very serious conflicts of interests involved, for example, it was possible for a person to be a consultant one moment and at another to be a member of the committee. It was also possible to participate purporting to represent genuine NGO ethos, when it was painfully obvious that the agenda of official public policy was being represented.
I might add that there was a level on ineptitude that I have seldom witnessed.
In our view, it is too late now to try to patch up a failed system, with the same failed operatives involved. It would take a new broom to sweep the IFCI house clean.
John Haughton
Forest Friends Ireland

Dear all, I see that Declan Little, is back again, giving his viewpoint, which always is in perfect harmony with Coillte Teoranta, the semi-state body that has had its 80% annual exotic plantings of mainly American sitka spruce certified by FSC! For those who don't know it, this is totally at variance with all other European forestry programmes of the EU. The next worst offender, is France with 49% annual exotic species plantings. And I Have it from the head of the French Forestry commission that the reason they don't go over that figure of 49% is they realise that exotic species are damaging to the environment!
The reason I add this comment is that people that are not familiar with the incredible domination of economic interests in "forestry" in Ireland, might think, from Declan's email, that economic interests are hardly taken into account. He states,QUOTE
There is a long way to go on this but it cannot succeed if all intersts are not represented and that includes economic interests.UNQUOTE
I can assure the independent observer, that not only are economic interests represented, but that Coillte teoranta, the forestry company in question has made sure that they totally dominate everything, through political and social and academic connections closely tied to the government. Declan himself has been in employment paid for by Coillte for example and in fact Coillte itself is one of the main employers of anyone connected to forestry and forestry research.
I admit readily, since I know him well, that Declan acts in good faith, and believes that Coillte's policy of planting outrageous percentages of exotic species, is in the best interests of Ireland.
This is the situation that people like me, concerned above all with protecting the natural environment, must deal with in the Ireland of 2008.
Regards, Ray Monahan, Castlegregory, County Kerry

Hello Sasha,
I have read your email with great interest and welcome its positive tone. You write QUOTE
As the current acting chair of the National Initiative in Ireland, I want to invite all interested stakeholders to participate in developing the national standard in Ireland.
To those who don't know me, I am a social forester and forest ecologist who educates undergraduates in environmental responsible forest management.UNQUOTE
I would like to put this straightfoward question to you. Do you consider annual planting of over 80% percent exotic species, mainly Sitka spruce from America, which is current Irish forest policy, "environmental responsible forest management"? I hope you do not.
But if you do, we are quite obviously not speaking the same language on the environment. The language I speak I learned from the works of |Dr Oliver Rackham of Cambridge University, the foremost authority on foresty and the natural environment in Ireland and the UK, and also Dr. George Peterken.
Indeed if you do consider such outrageous levels of exotic plantings acceptable, you should not be surprised if some of us consider your position and your email as just another call from the forestry establishment to come and join our dialogue knowing full well you are perfectly deaf to any call for significant change.
On the other hand, if you, like Oliver Rackham and George Peterken, do not consider such plantings environmentally responsible, I am sure you will find all those who oppose the IFCI of the past totally open to formulating a new Irish national standard for foresty.
Sincerely, Ray Monahan

As chair of FSC Australia can I offer the following document in the hope that it may help with issues surrounding you national initiative.


To all interested people,

Thanks for the welcome of my last post. I hope we can build a positive multi-stakeholder dialogue to achieve the objective of many, if not all, of us, which is a robust and quality FSC standard for Ireland.

The brilliance of a multi-stakeholder engagement is that we all have different opinions, views, experiences, and knowledge, and that is exactly why I am hoping all interested parties will join IFCI and participate in a multi-viewpoint discussion of what should be in a national standard in Ireland.

No one should be excluded because he or she holds an opinion of a certain sort about any aspect of forest management. And no one should be singled out for criticism. This is why the ground rules used in Limerick (the focus of the meeting is on the future and to ensure bad points of past not repeated; mutual respect; no attribution; and no slander) helped participants focus on the desire to move forward. We should continue to focus on advancing the process, and picking at others does not advance future collaboration.

I am not trying to avoid your question, Ray. Personally, I am very involved in native woodlands and in forest management for conservation and recreation. However, my personal opinions are no more or less important in this process than those of any stakeholder. This includes those who may focus on the industry which has built up over the last 100 years in Ireland around exotics, or on the rare slimemould recorded on a Douglas fir in Limerick....

I welcome a good albeit mutually respectful conversation on how to move forward to achieve the National Initiative goals to advance sustainable forest management in Ireland, develop a certifiable forest management standard for Irish forests based upon the principles and criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and to engage the general public and relevant interest groups in the development of the Irish FSC forest management standard. No one should be excluded based on his or her opinions.

Another quote from the Plantations Review Policy Working Group Final Report (apologies, but I do find it very incisive and useful to all of us in Ireland trying to find a way forward): ‘’The nature of our ambition means we face choices which, on the surface, appear to be contradictory. So at first sight the temptation is to choose for one or the other. But in fact, we regularly need to find the common ground between the two options. .... Treating these realities as necessarily mutually exclusive is an unproductive exercise. To become established as the forest and plantation certification system of choice, FSC needs to embrace a wide spectrum of operations, making specific efforts to promote the access of small and community-based operations.’’

I personally felt that the draft standard needs improvement, and that is why I became involved in IFCI, in order to contribute to that collaborative work. Throwing the current structure of the NI out will only give us more work to do to set up structures; it won’t magically eliminate stakeholders who have been working hard for so long. Not if we uphold to the inclusiveness inherent in the FSC approach.

I hope that all the many stakeholders will join IFCI, hold themselves to the mutual respect and focussing on moving forward which worked well in Limerick in December, and bring all their different opinions and knowledge to a constructive discussion.

I welcome further queries through the IFCI website address. And - please do join !!

The raft standard does not need improvement, as Sasha Bosbeer feels. It needs to be trashed and forgotten. If it needed improvement, FSC themselves would not have instructed Hubert Bonafos to reject it out of hand months ago.

You fool nobody, Sasha.


We know the truth. IFCI is already lying in its coffin. The Forest Sevice won't give you any money. You are wasting your time on sweet words that we all know mean nothing. You can continue to talk away forever about inclusion and progress and all the rest. Anyone can talk. It takes something more to act.

Nobody will join IFCI because it is proven to be a failure and you know it. The most recent Daft Standard is proven to be a failure and you know that too.

No amount of talk will wriggle IFCI out of this. You know FSC has issued IFCI with an ultimatum. So far IFCI has done nothing to make any progress at all since September 2007, but it has failed to plenty.

No change there.

Don't waste your breath responding.

Hi Sasha,
Thank you for your email which I read carefully.
I regret that I consider it evasive, but that such evasiveness is in itself revealing.
You do not intend, obvously, to answer my simple direct question. You do not therefore speak, as I suspected, the language, or subscribe to, apparently, the scientific principles, of Dr. Oliver Rackham and what is in effect the accepted scientific international position that annual planting of exotic species plantations of over 50% are unacceptably damaging to the environment, nevermind 90% which is the case in Ireland now.
There is in effect no EU country that would consider your answer as other than unacceptable since only one country practices such plantings of 49%, that being France as I explained. Since you do not accept current international scientific standards of what is and what is not environmentally damaging, I hope at the very least that you will have the good grace to understand why a rapidly growing number of Irish stakeholders do not wish to deal with the Irish Forest Certification Initiative, the IFCI.
Ray Monahan, Castlegregory
Co. Kerry

Not seeing the Woods for the Trees.

It is now almost ten years since IFCI (the Irish Forestry Certification Initiative) was set up by FSC International (The Forest Stewardship Council), tasked with developing a certification standard for forestry in Ireland.

So far, the Initiative has been a failure. Heavily weighted with
Coillte representatives, far from improving the dire state of our
national forests, IFCI has not delivered on its mandate, rather it
has been little more than an improperly constituted, badly
administered, rubber stamp for Coillte and its policy of blanket
afforestation with alien species, in vast monoculture plantations,
heavily sprayed with pesticides.

For the past year, a number of local, environmental NGO’s, sidelined over the past 6 years by IFCI from participation in developing a sustainable standard, have been in direct negotiations with FSC and ASI international, trying to rescue the process and bring some progress and clarity.

Sadly, these negotiations have ended in farce, with no one in FSC or
ASI taking responsibility, and IFCI, despite being told to suspend operations for 6 months, continuing 'business as usual'.

These excluded NGO’s are now calling on the Irish government, the FSC, and the EU, whose generous grants have fuelled Coillte’s disastrous plantations policy, to end the failure that is IFCI, and start the process anew, setting up a body that is truly independent and has the interests of Irish people, real forests, native species and the environment at its core.

We in IESS ask that:

1. IFCI be formally suspended.

2. The current Soil Association (yes, the Soil Association) certificate,
awarded to Coillte last year, be withdrawn, pending the
agreement of a properly constituted, national standard for Irish

3. Coillte, and it's nominees, be required to withdraw from the
process, pending the agreement of a proper standard.

4. Safeguards be put in place that ensure the new process is set up
with true transparency and accountability.

Signed, IESS.

Money Doesn't Grow on Trees...

...Trees don't grow on money either, apparently.

Ireland's National Initiative, the Irish Forestry Certification Initiative (IFCI), was founded in January 1999.

It was incorporated as a limited company in September 2000.

Since that date IFCI has been funded almost entirely through grants from Ireland's state Forest Service.

To date, the bill amounts to just under €100,000.

For 2007 alone, the grant was in excess of €30,000.

IFCI sought further funding from the Forest Service for 2008 of €37,380.

They didn't get it.

The money has now dried up. The Forest Service has refused to provide any further funding. This is not due to meanness on the part of the Forest Service. Rather, there are some very good reasons why no grants were provided for 2008.

Simply, the Forest Service looked at what the costs so far have achieved, and concluded that any further funding was like pouring gold dust down the drain. Here is what they found.

- IFCI had already received over €80,000 from the Forest Service

- IFCI now wanted a grant for 2008 alone of over 45% the amount they had spent in the preceding eight years

- There is still no accredited National Standard

- There is still not even a draft standard

- Throughout its history IFCI has been beset by:
- internal disputes between Steering Group members
- grievances raised by members and non-members that remain unresolved
- membership numbers that have fallen by around 75%
- clear conflicts of interest in the Steering Group
- clearly inappropriate chamber affiliation of Steering Group members, Chair and Secretary
- a huge body of stakeholders refusing to sully their good name by association with IFCI
- failures to meet legal obligations up to six years after they were first identified
- the proposed way forward, the so-called 'Bonn Plan', ignored by the Steering Group
- no effort whatever to reach out to stakeholders
- stonewalling, exclusion and even legal threats to stakeholders

Not a pretty picture. If anything, the problem here was that the Forest Service saw fit to keep funding this disaster for so many years.

As with so many issues relating to IFCI, the above failures to meet the most basic of FSC requirements would, one might expect, attract the immediate attention of FSC itself, an inquiry, and either a dramatic improvement within IFCI, or the rejection of its role as National Initiative.

Alas, no.

Rather, FSC saw fit to maintain accredit IFCI as the Irish National Initiative, ignored formal complaints about its activities, ignored its legal failings, ignored its refusal to deal with grievances, even refused to consider those grievances itself when they were forwarded to FSC, ignored IFCI's failure to produce any document remotely like an FSC Standard, paid no heed to the collapsing membership numbers and so on and on...

The pattern is consistent across every aspect of IFCI's performence over the last
decade: waste, delay, dire performance and outright failure.

The pattern is equally consistent across every aspect of FSC's response to calls for action from stakeholders: obfuscation, stonewalling, delay, refusal to communicate...


Above all, FSC has stubbornly maintained the accreditation of IFCI in the face of a barrage of protests.

While the Forest Service have been slow to react to the failure of IFCI, they have at least finally taken action to stop the haemorrhage of funding.

FSC, however, have not.

It is clear, now, why IFCI have continued on their futile course for so very long. They look to FSC, the "Mother Ship" in Bonn. They see no angry faces. They hear no disapproving words. They suffer no penalties.

FSC provides an example to the National Initiatives. IFCI have followed that example. It is very clear that the combination of incompetence and wrong thinking in Ireland's National Initiative was equalled by apathy and a head-in-the-sand mentality in Bonn.

We cannot wholly blame IFCI for its failings.

We can blame FSC for them, for not identifying them, for not highlighting them to IFCI, for not threatening penalties...


Now is the time for FSC to accept what has been painfully evident for years, that IFCI is a disaster that is unfixable, that IFCI must be de-accredited publicly, in a statement that lays out the reasons why it is wholly unacceptable as part of FSC.

Now is the time for FSC to accept what the Forest Service has come to accept, that IFCI has been and continues to be a complete waste of time, money and effort.

Unless and until this is done, FSC remains tainted by everything that has gone wrong in IFCI.

Unless and until this is done, the credibility of the FSC Eco-label remains tarnished

Unless and until this is done, the credibility of every FSC-certified organisation remains in doubt

The people of Ireland are now calling, through IESS Alliance, on the members of FSC National and Regional Initiatives and on certified forestry organisations globally to stand up for their own reputations and demand that these no longer be sullied by the shame IFCI brings on their hard work and their products.

I also have to acknowledge that the FSC process has failed in Ireland. After years of trying to achieve progress on the IFCI committee Iin June 2007 FIE lodged a number of grievances with FSC against the continuimng malpractice of IFCI. FSC agreed that the greivacnes were valid however they said would not give any response until after the Bonn meeting. No reosne was given and to date FIE still have not received a response despite numerous requests.

IFCI continue to breach their memorandum and articles of association, continue to try and exclude minority gourps , are in the process of developing rules with no consultation and so on.

Woodlands of Ireland (WoI) now dominate the process - Sasha came on the commitee as a WoI substitute and remains a WoI memebr, VOICE and An Taisce, Coillte, the Fisheries board are also WOI memerbs etc etc..
And I am sure no-one will be surprised that the first Woodlands of Ireland submission to the IFCI draft standard was written on Coillte headed note paper!

And meanwhile Coillte continue to claim five star forestry while the soils erode , water is polluted and native biodiversity vanishes under exotic conifer plantations! (Images are availble of FIEs website http://friendsoftheirishenvironment.net/index.php?do=photos&gId=1 )

Sustainable forestry indeed.


An IESS Statement.

It is with great concern that IESS (The Irish Environment
Stakeholders) observe the consequences of, and fundamentally flawed nature of, the certificate handed out to Coillte by the Soil Association, in August 2006.

After months of fruitless requests for its publication, we now see that ASI's assessment of that certificate (discussed on FSC Watch, 13 March 2008), shows that it was based on the shakiest of foundations.

For example, many of FSC's own rules and stipulations are to be merely 'putatively' met, at some unspecified time in the future! In fact, a careful reading of ASI’s assessment strongly suggests that this certificate is virtually meaningless.

We understood, apparently wrongly, that FSC certification exists to provide performance-based analysis of sustainability. That is, /performance/ not promises. It is clear from ASI’s critique that Coillte is not performing at an adequate level to be certified at all.

In these circumstances it is ever more obvious that Coillte’s only interest in gaining the Soil Association’s imprimatur was that it would allow it to carry on ‘business as usual’, that is, to:

1) plant 90% exotic conifers

2) continue to plant upland peat bogs (some of the last in Europe,
containing some of the richest biodiversity of this type).

3) continue to extensively clearfell (against all contemporary
environmental advice)

4) continue to overuse environmentally damaging , carcinogenic
pesticides, and rock phosphates, with scant regard for local
water supplies, local communities, and the environment in
In short, to perpetuate the very practices that FSC was set up to change.

Once again IESS calls for the Soil Association’s certification of Coillte - one of the largest, and most polluting landowning entities in Ireland - to be withdrawn. The certificate is a blot on the record of the Soil Association, a once loved, and respected, environmental organization, and, certifies a semi-state company, engaged in some of Europe's most environmentally damaging, exotic species forestry; a company, whose 20 year record of pesticide use , and pollution, demonstrates quite clearly that it has very little regard, if any, for the Irish environment, or the Irish people.

IESS, Irish Environmental Stakeholders. March 2008.

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