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Greenpeace International to discontinue FSC membership

Netherlands-headed global environmental non-governmental organisation (ENGO) Greenpeace International has announced it is not renewing its membership in the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global timber certification scheme for which the ENGO was a founding member 25 years ago.
"We believe robust timber certification is a helpful but imperfect tool for protecting people’s rights and improving forest management," said Matt Daggett, Global Campaign Leader for the Forest Campaign.

In an accompanying briefing statement on March 26, it said that it was not renewing “due to inconsistent implementation and failures to protect forests”.

We are firmly committed to advancing the best possible forest protections for people, biodiversity, and the climate. We believe robust timber certification is a helpful but imperfect tool for protecting people’s rights and improving forest management, which is why Greenpeace International will not renew its Forest Stewardship Council membership nor participate as a member of any other timber certification scheme, said Matt Daggett, Global Campaign Leader for the Forest Campaign.

The organisation says that it has seen “very uneven” implementation of FSC principles and criteria globally with FSC certification having improved forestry practices in some regions while falling short of its goals of “conserving forests and providing for wider social benefits” in other regions – in particular, in “high risk” regions where “democratic and civil society institutions are weak, and corruption is high”.

When implemented effectively, Forest Stewardship Council certification can protect people’s rights and improve forest management, but we no longer have confidence that FSC alone can consistently guarantee enough protection, especially when forests are facing multiple threats. FSC is not consistently applied across regions, especially where there’s weak governance. Some local Greenpeace offices that operate in countries with stronger governance may maintain FSC membership so that they can push for stronger implementation at a national level, said Daggert.

Although FSC has rules for forest conservation built-in and can contribute to conservation outcomes, Greenpeace says it is not doing enough on forest protection – the “FSC system is currently focussing on commercial forest operations and needs to carry out improvements to achieve large-scale forest protection in all the forest regions of the world”.

Transparency is the foundation for effective accountability, for certification schemes, governments, and companies. For a certification scheme to be considered credible in 2018, I believe it must transparently publish the mapped boundaries of sourcing areas and assessment reports to allow external monitoring and input. We are calling on FSC and all certification schemes to act with urgency to improve their transparency, said Daggert.

Greenpeace also points out that it’s non-support position on other forest certification schemes such as Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), or its affiliated certification systems, such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) in North America, Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC), Australian Forestry Standard (AFS), and Indonesian Forestry Certification Cooperation has not changed.

Timber certification is a helpful but insufficient tool in the struggle to save our forests – we’ve always asked companies to go above and beyond. We encourage companies to firstly reduce their use of virgin fibre and use recycled and responsible alternative fibre whenever they are available. When virgin wood fibre is required, we still encourage the use of 100 percent FSC, with additional due diligence, said Daggert.

However, as a global organization, Greenpeace does not endorse PEFC-certified products in the marketplace because it says that PEFC schemes lack the “basic foundations and requirements to protect social and ecological values, and primarily serve the interests of the timber industry.”

In a public response to Greenpeace International’s briefing statement, FSC noted that the decision was in line with Greenpeace International’s “overall decentralization approach” allowing national offices to determine if and how to best engage with FSC and forest management more broadly.

FSC said it was “excited” to continue collaborating with several national offices such as Canada, Finland, the United States and New Zealand that had already confirmed that they were maintaining membership.

However, FSC suggests that the decision moves individual organizations inside Greenpeace International away from working on the responsible management of natural forests, even when certified to “the world’s most trusted standard” – forest protection “cannot stand alone without responsible management” to help protect and maintain the world’s forests said FSC.

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