Nordic ecolabel scheme in NGO access row

WWF Sweden threatens to end cooperation after Nordic Swan drops participation requirement

WWF Sweden has threatened to suspend cooperation with the Nordic Swan ecolabelling scheme after its management board dropped a requirement for NGOs and other stakeholders to be involved in setting criteria for paper products.

One of the world's most well established ecolabelling schemes, the Nordic Swan is run cooperatively by Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. Though stakeholder access is not explicitly assured in general, the scheme last year sought to introduce it for printing papers. This was done to align the scheme with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an independent, global sustainable forestry organisation backed by WWF.

But the clause requiring industry practices to be judged "acceptable" to economic, social and environmental interests was recently dropped. According to Ragnar Unge of the ecolabelling board, it proved impossible to reach agreement among stakeholders on what constituted "environmentally adapted forestry". The result was that no further Nordic Swan labels had been granted to private forest-derived printing papers for a year.

"We [realised that we] can't impose such a requirement on the forestry industry today because we would end up having no environmentally labelled paper [from private companies] at all," Mr Unge said. But he added that the board would try to re-introduce the "acceptability" requirement into Swan printing paper criteria in three years.

WWF Sweden sees the policy change as a capitulation to private forest owners, particularly in Norway and Finland, many of whom have also opposed the FSC and have instead backed the competitive, industry-inspired pan-European Forest Certification (PEFC) scheme (ENDS Daily 30 August). This does not require NGO involvement in standard setting in the same way as the FSC.

Follow Up:
SIS Ecolabelling, tel: +46 8 610 30 40. WWF Sweden, tel: +46 8 624 7400.

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