An independent observer of the Forest Stewartship Council

Veracel: FSC's 'Death Certificate'Tags: Brazil, Plantations, Accreditation controls, SGS Qualifor

World Rainforest Movement expresses strong criticism of the FSC in its statement reacting to the news that Veracel's monoculture eucalyptus plantations are now FSC certified. WRM notes that Veracel is the "last piece in a chain of failures" by FSC.

At the time of the company's assessment by SGS in September 2007, WRM warned that the possible certification of Veracel placed FSC 'at the crossroads'. They cautioned that it would be "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."

In November 2002, FSC's Director Heikko Leideker said that he had "not heard claims from NGOs in the south that we are actually undermining their campaigns." He added that "We would take that sort of information very seriously." WRM has explained repeatedly how certifying industrial tree plantations undermines local struggles. Either Leideker was lying when he said he would take this seriously, or he simply doesn't care. But this isn't just about Liedeker. He's already resigned anyway.

FSC's Plantations Review has so far had zero impact on FSC certification of industrial tree plantations. In 2001, the FSC International Secretariat produced a list of issues which FSC needed to clarify. Included on the list was FSC's position on plantations. Seven years on, FSC has made its position on plantations clear. It is in favour of them, regardless of the impacts. NGOs that still support FSC now have to explain why they are helping to undermine local struggles.

Veracel: FSC's Death Certificate

Yesterday we were notified by the FSC certifying body SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance) that they have awarded an FSC certificate to Veracel's eucalyptus plantations in Brazil. What they did not announce in the e-mail was that together with that certificate they were also giving the FSC its death certificate.

Veracel, a joint venture between Swedish-Finnish Stora Enso and Norwegian-Brazilian Aracruz Cellulose, occupies an area of around 164,600 hectares of land in the Brazilian State of Bahia. Approximately half of the land is occupied by monoculture eucalyptus plantations.

Last year, when civil society organizations from Brazil and from the rest of the world became aware of the fact that Veracel was applying for the FSC label, it generated a strong reaction. The company has a very well known record of harmful actions, including violating local communities' rights over land, to environmental pollution, water depletion and ecosystem destruction.

These impacts have been well documented and all the relevant information was sent to the FSC International Secretariat. FSC's board was invited to visit the area, to gain first hand information about the problem. Although there was sufficient evidence to show that certifying Veracel would result in FSC's complete loss of credibility, the board declined the invitation.

The certifying company itself (SGS) has a long record of certifying uncertifiable large scale industrial tree plantations. FSC announced that its Accreditation Services (ASI) would be "conducting a Forest [sic] Management surveillance audit of SGS at Veracel in Brazil between the 26th-28th of March 2008". The fact that SGS decided to certify Veracel a few days before the arrival of the ASI team is a slap in the face, not only for local communities, but for ASI and the FSC themselves.

FSC is currently carrying out a Plantations Review process. Many of us understood this to be an acknowledgement that there were some problems to be discussed regarding plantation certification. However, nothing seems to have changed since the Plantations Review started and large scale monoculture tree plantations continue to be certified under the FSC system all around the world, not only by SGS, but also by the other certifying firms.

The certification of Veracel is not an isolated fact, but the last piece in a chain of failures. WRM has been campaigning for many years against the certification of large scale tree plantations on the grounds that they have proven to be environmentally irresponsible and socially non-beneficial, therefore not complying with FSC's mandate. We have also highlighted that in those cases, FSC certification undermines local peoples struggles against the impacts of industrial tree plantations.

March 13, 2008, the date when SGS gave FSC certification to Veracel, will be remembered as the date of FSC's death certificate.


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