Swedish firm vaunts forest stewardship scheme

FSC-certified timber now Assi Domän's largest source of income, firm says

The major Swedish forest owning company, Assi Domän, is earning more money from timber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) than through non-labelled goods, the company says. "We may have to turn down new orders on FSC-certified products, Berit Hallberg of Assi Domän told ENDS Daily.

The UK Homebase company and some German and Dutch firms are among the most interested customers for FSC-certified timber, Assi Domän says. Out of some six major Swedish forest enterprises, the firm has moved the furthest towards adopting newly recognised Swedish FSC standards - the first national rules so far- supporting environmentally and socially beneficial management of forests.

The success of FSC-certified products has surprised some in Sweden's forestry business since one of the major objections raised by hesitant companies in Sweden and other countries has been high costs for achieving certification. The Swedish FSC rules came into force in January after years of negotiations between all the major forestry companies, minority groups like the Sami people and the main environmental NGOs.

So far, four of the six major forest companies have started the certification process. Apart from Assi Domän the group include Korsnäs Marma, Mo Domsjö and Stora, while Graninge and SCA are pursuing a wait-and-see policy.

Small forest owners are continuing to criticise the FSC approach, however. Sven Sjunnesson of the Swedish Federation of Forest Owners, which represents small firms and private owners, told ENDS Daily that the FSC rules were designed for large scale forestry. He said that environmental management systems such as the EU eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) and ISO 14001 worked "well enough".

But Jonas Rudberg of the Swedish FSC Council challenged Mr Sjunnesson's scepticism. Standards other than the FSC scheme "do not guarantee environmentally managed forests," he said. "They leave companies free to decide on their own standards."

Most Swedish companies seeking FSC certification combine ISO 14001 and EMAS standards with the FSC rules. With few setbacks so far, Anders Linde at WWF Sweden thinks the FSC-process is working reasonably well in Sweden. "We expect 30% of forest concessions to be certified by the end of this year and more than 50% by the year 2000," he said.

Mr Linde is hoping for a "domino effect". "When hesitating companies realise that FSC certification pays, they will also come along," he said. Sweden holds a major part of the certified forests in Europe with some 2 million hectares so far approved.

Follow Up:
Assi Domän, tel: +46 8 655 9000; Swedish Federation of Forest Owners, tel: +46 8 787 5400; Swedish FSC Council, tel: +46 8 702 6500; WWF Sweden, tel: +46 8 624 7400.

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