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FSC places the Schweighofer Group on probation for disassociation

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has decided to place the Schweighofer Group on probation for possible disassociation for involvement in irregularities and illegalities in its timber trade operations and in illegal logging by its Romanian forest land enterprise.

INTERPOL estimates that illegal logging costs the forest industry between at least US$19-47 billion per annum in lost company profits.

INTERPOL estimates that illegal logging costs the forest industry between at least US$19-47 billion per annum in lost company profits.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of responsible forest management, has decided to place Schweighofer Group, an Austrian-headed wood processing company, on probation for possible disassociation for involvement in irregularities and illegalities in its timber trade operations and in illegal logging by its Romanian forest land enterprise.

Under probation, the Schweighofer Group is required to meet a number of conditions prior to the next meeting of the FSC International Board of Directors to be held in February 2017. If the Group fails to do so, the Board will then decide for disassociation.

FSC firmly believes that this decision is the most effective way to ensure that the Schweighofer Group engages in actions to fully address any involvement in irregularities and illegalities in its timber trade operations and in illegal logging by its Romanian forest enterprise.

Evidence of illegal timber trade

The decision was based on a report by an independent complaints panel appointed in March 2016 that has conducted an in-depth investigation of the allegations against Schweighofer Group’s forestry related business operations in Romania and raised in a Policy for Association complaint by WWF Germany against the group.

As a result of the investigation, the complaints panel reported that there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the Schweighofer Group has been involved in significant irregularities and illegalities in its timber trade operations in Romania, and in the harvesting of timber from forest land that was purchased under a dubious legal framework.

The investigation led the complaints panel to conclude that the Schweighofer Group has violated the Policy for Association by its ongoing involvement over an extended period of time in illegal logging and the trade of illegal timber.

In a statement Schweighofer Group acknowledges that there were “irregularities and reported illegalities” in the Romanian supply chain beyond its knowledge as well as logging operations infringing FSC policy by its Romanian forest land enterprise which had acquired in good faith reported illegally retroceded forests. Furthermore  that the Group accepts the decision taken by FSC and is “committed to make the necessary efforts to address any shortcomings in our Romanian operations and to improve our overall systems”.

Strengthening legality and sustainability

At the same time, FSC acknowledges that there are important issues related to legality and sustainability in the Romanian forest sector. Finding solutions to these issues requires joint efforts by industry and civil society in the country, and FSC is keen to explore how it can play a constructive role as a robust certification scheme and a dialogue platform in helping stakeholders find long-term solutions to these identified challenges.

Engaging in a constructive dialogue in Romania also means working to ensure that forestry companies such as the Schweighofer Group, understand the importance of sustainability and legality and commit, along with other stakeholders, to carry out sweeping improvements in their operations in the Romanian forestry sector.

– The FSC board has taken into account recent measures introduced by the Schweighofer Group to address the shortcomings found in its system, particularly related to its due diligence, but extensive improvement is still needed in many areas in order for the company to maintain association with FSC after the probation period,” says Kim Carstensen, Director General, FSC.

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