In a new article in Yale Environment 360, renowned
environmental writer Richard Conniff identifies fundamental
problems facing the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification
group. Unfortunately, in too many parts of the world, organizations
such as the FSC are merely certifying the status quo. This often
undermines any meaningful reform efforts to truly protect the
worlds forests, by instead offering governments and companies the
false appearance of good forest management and sourcing
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) supports the
principle and potential of certification to enhance legal and
sustainable wood sourcing, and to improve forest governance. In the
past, EIA has been encouraged by the possibility of responsible
companies acting as role models for following the rule-of-law in
forest producing countries.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that certification be
it under the FSC, PEFC or any of the dozen other labels - is not
the same thing as due diligence, already a legal requirement for
importers of wood products into the EU, US and Australia. FSCs lack
of traceability and transparency make it difficult for buyers and
the public to assess the claims of the certifier; under the current
system, its all too easy for illegal and unsustainable timber to
find its way into FSC-certified supply chains.
The passage of key amendments to the US Lacey Act in 2008 were
followed by the entry into force of the EU Timber Regulations in
2013, and Australias Illegal Logging Prohibition Act in 2014. All
of these laws prohibit imports of illegally acquired timber.
Notably, they require companies importing wood products to conduct
some form of due diligence to assess the level of risk that the
trees were cut or traded in violation of the law. Knowing the
origin of timber where the trees were cut is an essential first
step in the due diligence process.
In the Yale360 article, FSCs director general Kim Carstensen
states that the FSC system relies on external watchdogs to bring
evidence of wrongdoings. However, at present, maps of FSC-certified
concessions are not available to the public much less, details
about when and where the timber was bought and sold through the
production process. As a first step, release of FSC-certified
concession maps would go a long way towards improving the
Ultimately, for the FSC to keep pace with evolving global norms,
it must embrace technology. In a...