FSC-Watch

An independent observer of the Forest Stewartship Council

Controversy deepens over Veracel certificationTags: Brazil, Plantations, Accreditation controls, SGS Qualifor

The controversy over SGS Qualifor's certification of Veracel deepened last week with two-pages of articles in the Brasil de Fato newspaper. The articles (in Portuguese, links below) note the recent court decision against Veracel, fining Veracel US$12.5 million and ruling that the company must remove eucalyptus trees covering an area of 96,000 hectares and replant native forest.

The articles also make several other serious criticisms of Veracel, based on an interview with João Alves da Silva, the public prosecutor in the town of Eunápolis, Bahia state. He has investigated the role of state authorities in issuing environmental permits to Veracel.

Here are the key points from the interview with João Alves da Silva:

João Alves da Silva says that all the findings of the investigations will soon be issued to the Court.

It's nice to see that the public authorities in Bahia state are investigating Veracel's activities. SGS Qualifor apparently felt that wouldn't be necessary before issuing the FSC certificate. The Public Summary of the Veracel assessment includes 40 pages of "stakeholder comments". In its responses SGS Qualifor doesn't waver once in its support of the company. SGS Qualifor provided Veracel with the best assessment that money can buy.

Given that Veracel in effect hired SGS Qualifor to provide a service, the monitoring and regulation of SGS Qualifor's assessment is crucial. That's where Accreditation Services International comes in. Shortly after SGS Qualifor issued its certificate of Veracel ASI carried out an audit of SGS Qualifor's certification of Veracel. ASI wrote that the certification contained "a number of nonconformities with FSC accreditation requirements." ASI has made similar (under)statements in previous audits of SGS Qualifor. Yet the certificate remains in place and SGS Qualifor remains accredited by FSC.

SGS Qualifor took a "business decision" to self-impose an "open-ended moratorium on the issuance of new FSC forest management certificates". But at any moment SGS Qualifor could make a business decision to overturn the moratorium. A search using google ("moratorium" site:www.forestry.sgs.com) reveals no mention of any moratorium on issuing FSC certificates on SGS Qualifor's website. FSC, it seems, has taken on the role of issuing SGS Qualifor's business decisions.

Clearly, SGS Qualifor should not have issued the Veracel certificate, for the simple reason that Veracel's activities are not in conformance to FSC's standards. Equally clearly, it's about time that FSC and ASI took some meaningful action against SGS Qualifor. An indefinite global suspension, for example. That could be followed by a thorough investigation of all SGS Qualifor's previously issued certificates, cancelling them where necessary. Veracel would be a good place to start cancelling certificates.

Links

Luciana Silvestre, "Justiça condena Veracel Celulose por desmatar 96 mil ha de Mata Atlântica", Brasil de Fato, 21 August 2008.

Luciana Silvestre, "Veracel compra servidores na Bahia para plantio irregular de eucalipto", Brasil de Fato, 21 August 2008.

Comments

We need to be careful not to give the impression that suspending SGS certificates through an "indefinite global suspension" will solve the underlying problem of FSC allowing its 'forest certification system' to be abused to certify industrial tree plantations.

Wally

I agree Wally. The FSC certificate in Manitoba is corrupt and not only should be revoked, but really shows FSC for what it is--a corrupt certification system. It's only a matter of time before FSC is relegated to the history books.

David Nickarz

Whilst SGS might not be issuing new FSC certificates just now, it seems worth looking out for them transferring their 'experience' to the RSPO. SGS Qualipalm has been accredited by the RSPO and is likely to start certifying so-called 'sustainable palm oil' any time now. In fact, the first RSPO certificate ever was awarded last week, albeit not by SGS, and several more applications are to be determined shortly.

On a personal note, I drove through this area on a recent holiday and was shocked by what I saw -- a green desert -- and by what the few people we talked to said about it. Fishing, grazing and small scale agriculture, as well as the survival of many indigenous communities are being crippled by this monoculture.

I was amazed that paper from this region will have FSC certification... makes me question anything with an FSC logo

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