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Call for cancellation of NORFOR certificateTags: Galicia, Spain, Plantations, Certifier conflict of interest, Accreditation controls, Complaints procedures, SGS Qualifor

Galician environmental group Verdegaia and a confederation of 300 environmental groups from Spain have demanded that the the FSC certificate of eucalyptus plantation company NORFOR should be immediately cancelled.

As FSC-Watch has previously reported, the certificate has already been the subject of a formal complaint. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in no action by FSC - though FSC continues to maintain the fiction that it has an effective complaints procedure.

11 April 2008

The SGS/NORFOR scandal seriously undermines the FSC seal's credibility

Verdegaia and Ecologistas en Acción demand that the FSC sustainable forest management certification given to NORFOR (ENCE) be cancelled

The Galician environmental association Verdegaia and Ecologistas en Acción, a confederation comprising 300 environmental groups from Spain, consider the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) sustainable forest management certification given to the company Norte Forestal (NORFOR) a fraud. The certifying entity SGS granted the certification FSC to this ENCE group company for the 12,000 hectares of forest land it manages in Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria (Northern Spain), despite the fact that it does not meet the necessary requirements. If the FSC management does not put an end to this situation, Verdegaia and Ecologistas en Acción will stop supporting the FSC sustainable forest management system, the only forestry certification they have supported to date.

SGS maintains the FSC certification to NORFOR since 2004, in spite of it not having been able to prove, to this date, that the ENCE group company's practices with regards to sustainable forest management are in agreement with the principles and criteria of the FSC system. The lack of rigor and professionality of the SGS audit caused a complaint before the APDR. Greenpeace and WWF/Adena, supported by Verdegaia and Ecologistas en Acción amongst other environmental organizations. Consequently, the Accreditation Services of the International FSC (ASI) initiated an investigation regarding the SGS certification to NORFOR. The result of this investigation should lead to the short term cancellation of NORFOR's FSC certification. We believe that any other ending would be fatal to the FSC system's credibility, especially in the Spanish state, given the amount of evidence regarding both NORFOR'S non-compliance to FSC standards and the biased nature of the audit carried out by SGS.

By far, NORFOR's management of the forests it owns or leases, almost completely covered with intensive eucalyptus plantations, cannot be regarded as sustainable according to the FSC system's standards. Amongst other reasons, due to its lack of transparency and openess to the interested parties such as environmental protection associations; its scarce promotion of multifunctional and multiproductive use of the forests; its negligence with regards to soil erosion preventive measures and soil fertility maintenance; it constituting an important loss of biodiversity; or its not protecting those spaces with a high conservation value.

The level of environmental fastidiousness of the FSC system is higher than that of the legislation, but this is mainly due to the weaknesses of the existing legal framework rather than to the strength of FSC. This becomes very evident in the particular case of the eucalyptus tree in Northern Spain, where plantations of which can be located and managed without hardly any environmental restrictions, in spite of the disastrous results of the massified and unorderly spread of eucalyptus trees registered in the last few decades. It isn't surprising, then, that a company such as NORFOR can manage forests causing serious environmental damage without having the administrations of Galicia, Asturias, or Cantabria, with competence in matters of forestry policy, do anything to avoid it.

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