NGOs hammer industry-backed forestry scheme

Groups rally behind Forest Stewardship as European industry scheme nears completion

An alliance of European NGOs has slammed the industry-inspired Pan-European Forest Certification (PEFC) scheme and refused to attend a meeting to finalise details for its development in Wurzburg, Germany, this week (ENDS Daily 31 March).

The Forest Movement Europe said that the initiative could undermine wider achievements in getting sustainable management of forests onto the agenda of businesses and consumers worldwide. Its statement came last week during an international symposium organised by global accreditation group the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in Benediktbeuren, also in Germany.

The draft PEFC statutes lacked any reference to improving forest management standards, according to Heiko Leideker of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Germany, who chairs WWF's European forestry group. WWF was instrumental in setting up the FSC and is represented in the Forest Movement Europe coalition along with other groups, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Three African NGOs also signed the statement, and hammered the PEFC for failing to address the world's most fundamental forestry problems by restricting membership to Europe.

"We are furious about their statement that NGOs will get no voting rights on the PEFC board, whereas they share equal rights with owners, timber companies, unions and indigenous people under FSC," Mr Leideker said. "What's more, there are no credible provisions for monitoring a chain of custody from the forest to the end product."

Mr Leideker left a door open for collaboration with the PEFC at some future stage by saying that if it were to address these criticisms, it could possibly achieve accreditation as a regional organisation under FSC. But he rebutted the PEFC's claim that the FSC was inappropriate to small-scale forestry. "Small owners in Wales, Sweden and Germany have already got together and spread costs by seeking group accreditation," Mr Leideker said. "Our smallest holding is just eight hectares in size, and benefiting from a 20% increases in prices achieved through FSC."

The large German do-it-yourself chain OBI was also vocal in its support for the FSC, whose accreditation system it started using six months ago. Issues of clarity and of chain of custody were critical for consumers, environmental affairs coordinator Stephan Botschen said. "We want a credible certificate that…is internationally valid…and acceptable to the important environmental organisations. What we do not want is a confusion of labels."

The FSC meeting, one of its largest ever, was attended by more than 300 participants from 48 countries. It was accompanied by an international trade fair at which 48 international companies exhibited products including garden furniture, designer cabinets and musical instruments, as well as the first chewing gum with certified ingredients from sustainably managed forests.

Follow Up:
FSC, tel: +52 951 46905.

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