Global Enviro Groups Call Out SFI in New Report

Dogwood Alliance Joins Leading Global Environmental Groups in Calling Out Industry-Driven Forest Certification Schemes That Fail to Protect Forests

“On the Ground” Report Supports Organization’s Campaign to Stop and KFC from Destroying Southern Forests for Wasteful Fast Food Packaging

Asheville, NC, USA – A coalition of environmental and social NGOs (1) released a investigation today exposing the failings of forest-industry-controlled certification worldwide.

On the Ground: The controversies of PEFC and SFI’ (2), details a series of cases, including how forested wetlands have been ditched and drained to make way for sterile plantations in the Southern US, indigenous peoples’ rights in Chile, Canada and Finland have been dismissed, how massive old growth forest destruction has been certified as “sustainable” in the Northwest US, Tasmania and Sweden, and how clear cutting tropical rainforest to make room for plantations has been endorsed in Indonesia.

“Not all forest certification schemes are created equal”, said Judy Rodrigues, forest campaigner with Greenpeace International. “The results of the On the Ground investigation clearly show that certification schemes must deliver real change in forest management on the ground to be considered successful. Unfortunately, PEFC is failing to do this; buyers should beware of greenwash when considering PEFC and SFI labelled wood products’’.

The researchers for the On the Ground report found that PEFC and SFI certified forests fail on key ecological and social parameters that wood and paper buyers expect from a credibly certified product.   Drawing from fourteen on-the-ground (3) and eight procedural case studies (4) the coalition report found that PEFC and SFI certified products:

  • Failed to protect forest values such as key habitats and endangered ecosystems.
  • Failed to consider adequately the needs of local and indigenous communities dependent on forests.
  • Failed to prevent the conversion of natural ecosystems to industrial tree plantations.

“While PEFC and SFI have offered many words about sustainability, this study looked at what is actually happening on the ground”, continued Rodrigues. “What we found is that these certification schemes do not represent sustainably or responsibly managed forests in a number of cases, at several locations around the globe”.

“In the Southern US, SFI trumpets itself as North America’s leading forest certification system even as it continues to slap a green label on the worst of the worst practices by industry giants like (IP), the largest paper producer in the South and across the globe,” said Scot Quaranda, Campaign Director at Dogwood Alliance.  “IP is notorious for logging endangered forests and ditching and draining forested wetlands in the Green Swamp.  This all leads to more sterile pine plantations which are then certified by the SFI.  When you see the SFI label on products coming from the region you know you are getting certified forest destruction.”

Certifying destructive forest practices is not limited to the South, it is a global phenomenon.  In Malaysia, an organisation called JOAS, the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia (5), are clear about the failure of the PEFC’s endorsed Malaysia Timber Certification Scheme’s (MTCS) to recognise and protect their rights.

“MTCC does not recognize nor protect indigenous peoples’ rights over traditional lands. This is despite the fact that several court decisions have actually recognized indigenous peoples´ native customary rights to land”, said  Jen Rubis from JOAS.

The On the Ground report also found issues about the quality and reliability of the chain of custody system, demonstrating weak, and some cases, no minimum regional standards exist for wood getting into PEFC and SFI-labelled products to the point of not knowing the origin of the wood and if the forest is being sustainably managed.

The study concludes that PEFC and SFI labels do not provide the reassurance that their certified forests and products are being managed sustainably and that buyers of these products are at risk of purchasing products that do not meet the ecological and social standards they could reasonably expect when purchasing a ‘certified’ product.

“PEFC must make two choices in order to meet these promises”, said Jim Ford, the Director of Climate for Ideas, ‘By raising its forest management standards it will either have to revoke a number of certificates where indigenous and community rights have not been respected, biodiversity values are not being protected and forest conversion has occurred; or it will have to verify changes on the ground have actually happened.’’


Note to the Editor:

The executive summary and the full report are available here.

(1) The coalition of NGOs included Climate for Ideas (United Kingdom), Forests of the World (Denmark), Dogwood Alliance (United States), Hnutí DUHA (Friends of the Earth Czech Republic), Greenpeace, Sierra Club of British Columbia, and Finnish Association for Nature Conservation.

(2) PEFC the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification is a global forest certification and SFI is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative a certification system used in North America.

(3) The report details fourteen case studies of PEFC and SFI certified forest areas from around the world, in Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, the US, Canada, Malaysia, Australia and Chile, as well as studies of procedural failings in products that are eligible or have been demonstrated to carry these certification systems’ labels.

(4) The report details eight procedural case studies of PEFC and SFI national endorsed schemes in France, Finland, Germany, USA and Indonesia.

(5) A quote from the JOAS (JARINGAN ORANG ASAL SEMALAYSIA – Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia) statement by, X, made at the Dutch Timber Procurement Assessment System (TPAS) Hearing of the SMK (Stichting Milieukeur –a Dutch Eco-label Assessment Body) Board of Appeal on 5th August 2011, Utrecht.

(6) There are at least 2 Indonesian legal documents that relate to the depth of peat and plantations: 1) Presidential Decree: Number 32/1990 and 2) Government Regulation: Number 26/2008.  Both stipulate that areas of peat more than three metres deep should be protected if upstream or in swamps.

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