Forest Stewardship Council Certifies Plantations

A troubling fact has come to our attention: an increasing number of large-scale tree monocrops are receiving Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification throughout the world.

Among the plantations recently given a "green" stamp of approval are Shell's plantations in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay; SAPPI's, MONDI's and SAFCOL's in South Africa; Klabin's and V&M Florestal's in Brazil; Perum Perhutani's in Indonesia; Fletcher Challenge's in New Zealand/Aotearoa and many others. If this trend continues, many more tree monocultures will also be guaranteed "sustainable" by the FSC, an organization which enjoys great credibility among the public.

The FSC was created as a result of increased awareness by consumers about their role in forest destruction, resulting from successful NGO campaigns, particularly regarding unsustainable logging practices in the tropics. When consumers began to ask their suppliers for certified wood, a number of NGOs decided to promote a process which could give them the choice of a "green" product. The NGOs came up with a number of principles and criteria that they insisted should be met before an FSC certificate was granted.

Nine of those principles are focused on forests and one on plantations (number 10). We believe that it is this decision -- to allow large-scale monoculture plantations to be certified along with other forestry operations -- which lies at the root of the current disturbing trend. People throughout the world are increasingly aware that plantations are not forests. Numerous local communities and organizations have documented the impacts of large-scale plantations and opposed them because of their social and environmental impacts. The plantations in question have resulted either in deforestation or in the degradation of other ecosystems, particularly grasslands and wetlands. On the ground reality is showing that large-scale tree monocultures -- no matter how many mitigation measures are implemented -- inevitably result in large-scale impacts on water, soils, flora, fauna and people because of their sheer scale.

Even if one accepts -- which we don't -- that plantations are forests, the fact is that Principle 10 is so weak that most plantations -- with the exception of those in areas marked by land conflict -- can be declared "sustainable" and given FSC certification.

We do not pretend to challenge the FSC and even less to question our NGO friends involved in it. What we do request is for them to revisit the whole issue of plantation certification, to take into account the plentiful existing documentation regarding the basic unsustainability of the plantation forestry model and either to exclude plantations from FSC certification altogether or to modify substantially Principle 10.

The FSC's main strength is its public credibility. Certification of unsustainable forestry operations -- such as large-scale tree monocultures -- can erode this credibility. A critical review of its own principles by the FSC can only increase it. We sincerely hope that the FSC will be able to accomplish the latter. (Forestnews)

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