Alternative Swedish forest certificate launched

Södra adopts EMAS-based scheme, abandoning Forest Stewardship Council model

Södra, the Swedish forestry group choosing to stay out of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification process, will launch its own certification standard this summer. The new rules, already approved by the Södra board of directors, includes a new environmental steering system based on the EU's eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS), new schemes for green forest management and detailed standards for environmental logging, leaving at least 5% of the forest unlogged.

"The new rules are easy to adapt and modify for the small family-owned forests of southern Sweden," says Södra deputy chairman Christer Segerstéen. The Södra group of forest owners includes some 31,000 small and medium-sized units covering a total of 1.7m hectares of forests, mainly in the south of Sweden.

Södra's certification package will be made available free-of-charge to all members. But costs for developing green forestry plans are to be borne by individual forest owners. All parts of the certification process will be checked by an independent controller, Södra stresses.

Södra left the Swedish FSC working group in May 1997 questioning the international FSC body as an institution. Södra is especially unhappy with the fact that FSC International has not been able to harmonise the levels worldwide of how much forest should be spared to safeguard the biodiversity of species. Levels of up to 15% preservation are considered to be too high by many small forestry owners.

The firm also opposes the FSC approach of granting product labels demonstrating that timber comes from a sustainable source. According to Södra, the "chain of custody" problem cannot be solved in a satisfactory way. Therefore, none of its products will be labelled to indicate fulfilment of certification standards.

Meanwhile, another group of mostly small forest owners who have previously objected to the likely cost of complying with the Swedish FSC standard have shifted towards gaining "group certification" under the FSC scheme. Several forest owners will apply for certification together, with control being exercised through random sampling of individual holdings.

"The goal is to offer all land owners the possibility to certify their forests according to the FSC standard at a reasonable price," says Carl Henric Kuylenstierna, director of the Forestry Society, which organised the move.

WWF Sweden, which promotes the FSC process in the country, has welcomed the new group certification scheme. "Group certification can contribute to a breakthrough for FSC-certification in family forestry," says WWF forest officer Anders Lindhe.

Follow Up:
Södra, tel: +46 470 890 00, The Forestry Society, tel: +46 150 16203, WWF Sweden, tel: +46 8 624 7400.

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