Forestry scheme relaxes certification rules

European FSC members win changes to "percentage" policy in bid to broaden scheme's appeal

One of the main international bodies promoting sustainable forestry practices has relaxed some of its specifications for timber-based products, following pressure from European participants in the scheme.

One of the changes reduce the percentage of virgin wood in chip and fibre products that must come from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) before products can carry the FSC logo. The other permits the FSC label to be applied to batches of similar solid wood products, such as fence poles, rather than each individual item. The new policy follows what Anna Jenkins of the FSC's UK working group described as "not an easy debate" within the movement, with some participants fearing it could amount to a "climbdown."

The UK - along with Sweden, which has by far the largest area of forests certified by the FSC as sustainably managed - was particularly vocal in favour of the changes, as a carrot likely to entice more companies into the scheme. "Certain industries have been finding it very hard to reach our standards," Ms Jenkins told ENDS Daily.

Under the new rules, approved at an FSC board meeting in Mexico last week, the minimum percentage of wood from certified forests required for chip and fibre products to bear the FSC label has been cut from 70% to 30%. This will be raised to 50% by 2005, and companies whose products bear the logo will have to develop an action plan for progressively increasing FSC content to meet this target.

Changes to the labelling of solid wood items were needed to remove bottlenecks and prevent prohibitive costs at sawmills, Ms Jenkins said. One study found that complete separation of FSC and non-FSC timber during handling raised costs by 27%.

Follow Up:
FSC UK Working Group, tel: +44 1686 412 176.

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