Global forest labelling scheme advances

FSC's main backer claims Austrian forest owners being won over; lobbies pension funds

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on Friday claimed a further small victory for the global Forest Stewardship Scheme (FSC), announcing that private Austrian forest owners had signed up for the first time. The development follows a recent plea by the Swedish forest industry for private forest owners there to reconsider their opposition to the FSC (ENDS Daily 6 June), suggesting that it may be gaining ground over the rival pan-European forest certification (PEFC) scheme.

The three Austrian forest owners that have signed up to the FSC will add only a few thousand hectares to area of 18m hectares worldwide already certified as sustainably managed. However, WWF Austria told ENDS Daily that ongoing discussions with other operators could see some 50,000 hectares of Austrian forests added over the next year. Winning the nation's foresters over to the FSC is important, the group says, because Austria is Europe's third largest exporter of sawn softwood timber.

* In a related development, WWF's UK office today called on British occupational pension funds to invest in forest product companies that have embraced the FSC. The statement was timed to coincide with entry-into-force today of a new regulation requiring trustees of occupational pension schemes to state whether environmental, social or ethical considerations have been taken into account in investment decisions.

"Using FSC certification as a criterion when investing in forest product companies offers pension scheme trustees a tangible way of delivering shareholder value in line with a socially responsible investment policy," said WWF today. It added that a recent report comparing the financial performance of FSC-certified Swedish forestry companies and non-FSC certified Finnish ones had shown a more than 60% greater investment return for the former group between 1994 and 1998.

Follow Up:
WWF Austria, tel. +43 1 48 81 72 16; WWF UK, tel: +44 1483 419 226.

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