Forest firms' certification plan gathers pace

Industry groups from 14 countries aim to agree European framework criteria by end of 1998

Forest industry representatives from around Europe formally backed the development of new pan-European forest certification rules yesterday at a meeting in Helsinki. The initiative, which was launched earlier this year, is swiftly gathering pace. Industry groups from 14 countries are now involved in the process, compared with five when talks started in August (ENDS Daily 27 August).

By developing their own certification standards, European forest industry groups are hoping to create an international alternative to the existing Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme. Backed by environmental groups, the FSC has been strenuously opposed by many forest industry groups, which have nevertheless come under increasing market pressure to obtain FSC certification.

The initiative now launched by industry groups is intended to lead eventually to an alternative label, based on a framework set of environmental criteria, independent third-party certification of compliance with these, and verification of the chain-of-custody of wood products.

The first step, according to Hannu Valtanen of the Finnish Forest Industries Confederation, will be to promote national and regional (sub-national) certification initiatives across Europe, such as the one recently launched in Finland (ENDS Daily 8 October).

A set of criteria, or "minimum requirements" for national and regional certification initiatives to be recognised under a pan-European umbrella is now also under development. These criteria should be ready by the end of this year, Mr Valtanen told ENDS Daily.

In a third stage, a system of mutual recognition between national and regional schemes is planned, leading to the creation of a single label for wood certified to have come from sustainably managed sources.

Forest groups from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden were represented at yesterday's meeting. A Swiss forest industry representative indicated support for the process by telephone, according to Mr Valtanen.

Interviewed by ENDS Daily shortly before the meeting took place, project coordinator Martin Strittmatter of the German Forestry Council said that the label eventually developed would, like the FSC scheme, be global. "We have to avoid discrimination," he said. "If [non-European producers] came and say that they fulfil the same criteria we would allow them to get the label too."

Mr Strittmatter suggested that two global labels for sustainable wood products should be able to co-exist. "We just want to put something different on the market," he said. But "if the NGOs want to have the FSC as the only system then there will be competition," he warned.

Follow Up:
Finnish Forest Industries Federation, tel: +358 9 13261; German Forestry Council, tel: +49 22 26 23 50.

Please sign in to access this article. To subscribe, view our subscription options, or take out a free trial.

Please enter your details

Forgotten password?

Having trouble signing in?

Contact Customer Support at
subs@endseurope.com
or call 020 8267 8120

Not a subscriber?

Take a free trial now to discover the critical insights and updates our coverage offers subscribers.