The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was created in 1993 to allow companies and the public to identify products coming from responsibly managed forests. In order to protect the world’s last remaining intact forests, consumers and companies who want to source products from responsibly managed forests need to trust the FSC label.
Canada’s Resolute Forest Products, the world’s largest FSC certified logging company, can no longer hide its’ destructive operations in Quebec and Ontario’s boreal forest behind the FSC label. Yesterday, Resolute had three of its certificates for forest management suspended. FSC auditor, Rainforest Alliance, suspended the certificates because the company had failed to meet a number of key FSC principles, including the free and informed consent of First Nations, the protection of High Conservation Values, and support from stakeholders for its operations.
Suspension of these Resolute certificates is exactly the kind of action needed to boost trust in FSC, the world’s only credible forest certification scheme.
The suspension of Resolute’s FSC certificates follows a May 2013 complaint filed by the Grand Council of the Crees, which represents nine First Nation communities, as well as complaints filed by Greenpeace and other organisations. To ensure that communities get the benefit from the forest operations that happen on their lands, free and informed consent is one of the fundamental principles of the FSC system. The Grand Council of the Crees, first submitted a formal complaint to FSC in September 2012, but it was not resolved.
As well as violating indigenous peoples’ rights, several of Resolute’s operations in the Canadian Boreal Forest threaten the region’s most ecologically important forest areas and species at risk of extinction, were also subject to complaints. These are the types of logging the FSC should be able to help reform.
The Forest Management (FM) certificates that were suspended prohibit Resolute from labeling their pulp, paper and wood products from 8 million hectares of Boreal Forest in Quebec and Ontario as FSC-certified, severely restricting their marketability. It includes a large portion of Quebec’s iconic Montagnes Blanches Endangered Forest, which is also key habitat for several imperiled caribou herds. We believe that the Resolute suspensions may be the largest in the 20-year history of the FSC.
Poor FSC certificates such as Resolute’s threaten the reputation of the FSC. We are encouraged that FSC and Rainforest Alliance have taken action to ensure compliance with the FSC’s core principles and look forward to further action to uphold and strengthen the FSC standard.
If the Forest Stewardship Council is to maintain its reputation as the highest global certification standard for forest management, it needs to continue to root out the bad certificates, like Resolute, while continuing to support and grow the good operations that are truly meeting or exceeding FSC requirements for well-managed forests.
FSC needs to continue to strengthen quality control, monitoring and enforcement so that responsible retailers and traders, as well as consumers and Greenpeace, can continue to trust that when we buy FSC products we know they are coming from forests that are being protected for their high conservation and social values.
Grant Rosoman is Greenpeace’s Global Forest Solutions Project Coordinator.