WWF Statement in Response to Ecological Internet Action AlertWWF has recently been the target of an action alert by Ecological Internet, an environmental internet news portal. The action alert criticized WWF for the following: supporting sustainable forest management in ancient forests, supporting “questionable” forest certifications, greenwashing forest companies, and receiving funding from forest companies.
The following Q&A answers these criticisms and provides links to WWF’s website for more information:
Why does WWF support sustainable management in natural forests?
WWF believes that forests outside formally protected areas are necessary for the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystems, both on individual sites and within the wider landscape. Well-managed commercial forests for example can provide vital buffers for and links between protected areas. In many countries demand for land is so great that total protection will only ever be applied to a small fraction of forests, and therefore the maintenance of biodiversity will require well-managed multi-purpose forests.
Over the past 10 years, the world has lost 100 million hectares of natural forest to agriculture and other land uses. In many social and economic contexts, the choice for forest use boils down to clearing forests for agriculture or creating economic value through some commercial use of the forest. In those circumstances, WWF believes sustainable forest management is an important strategy to maintain forest biodiversity. The gravest threat to biodiversity comes when forests are over logged and lose their economic value. At that point, deforestation and conversion to other land uses follows. Sustainable forest management is insurance against this eventuality.
Certification is the yardstick for measuring if a forest is well managed. WWF believes that the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the most credible global certification system.
Read WWF’s Position Paper on Forest Management Outside of Protected Areas (pdf, 26Kb)
Why does WWF support FSC?
WWF believes certification under the FSC system is the most credible means of ensuring that forest management is environmentally responsible, socially equitable and economically viable. The FSC is a non-profit membership organization open to all interested stakeholders at global, regional, national, and local levels. All decision making in the FSC and its national and regional initiatives is based on a comprehensive consensus between environmental, social and economic interests.
FSC was the first certification system to introduce the concept of high conservation values. It remains the only certification that requires a thorough evaluation of these values and provision for their maintenance with the management plan of the certified forest.
Read WWF’s Position Paper on Certification (pdf, 39Kb)
Why does WWF defend certification, including certifications that are questioned?
WWF supports the FSC system and the procedures within it that make it possible to question any given certificate. The checks and balances in the FSC system are designed to ensure transparency in decision-making, that all key stakeholders have an opportunity to be heard, and that avenues are available for raising grievances. Indeed, any organization or individual, including those participating in this action alert, is invited to criticize the FSC as part of the organization’s commitment to transparency, accountability and improvement.
WWF acknowledges that the FSC can be slow to respond to challenges and that assessors can make mistakes. It is also the case that certificates may need to be withdrawn when mistakes are exposed or a certified company fails to perform to the standard required.
Barama is a case in point. Barama’s FSC certificate was suspended when it failed to comply with the conditions for its certification. The certifier has identified the corrective actions that need to be taken for the company to meet FSC standards. If the company can respond, it will get its certificate back and the forests will be better managed than they would in the absence of certification.
In the cases mentioned in the action alert, the FSC certification process has driven documented improvements in forest management at the concession level. If there are factual disputes about these cases, the FSC system provides a forum where these issues can be raised. The strength of the FSC system is that it handles complaints and corrects mistakes. FSC is the only global certification system that currently offers balanced stakeholder participation.
WWF is actively participating in the development of FSC to ensure that it is better equipped to handle and monitor the hugely increased number of certificates and other new challenges brought on by its rapid growth.
See WWF’s Statement on Barama Company Ltd's FSC Certification in Guyana
Does WWF greenwash forest companies?
No. WWF believes that to conserve the environment and the life it supports WWF must work in willing and honest partnerships with NGOs, governments, business, local populations and society as a whole. Although corporations are often part of the problem, they are also part of the solution. WWF will work with companies that demonstrate a real commitment to the principles of sustainability and are prepared to adopt challenging targets for change.
The Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) is WWF's initiative to eliminate illegal logging and improve the management of valuable and threatened forests. It works toward its mission by promoting responsible forest management and trade with companies all along the timber supply chain.
The GFTN has strict membership requirements. For forest companies, this includes a commitment to becoming credibly certified within 5 years. Companies that join an FTN must pass a rigorous application process that includes a baseline appraisal, the development of an action plan, and regular monitoring. The GFTN provides a reliable, transparent framework within which producers can demonstrate that they make serious, tangible and time-bound progress towards independent credible certification.
More details on the GFTN: www.panda.org/gftn
More information on how WWF works with companies
Does GFTN accept money from companies?
Yes. GFTN is funded from a variety of sources – 52% from government aid agencies, 22% from WWF supporters and 26% from WWF corporate partners. In cases where individual FTNs charge membership fees, these fees are applied to the administration costs of the FTN.
WWF and GFTN firmly reject the allegation that companies who pay fees to participate within the GFTN are being "greenwashed." Participating companies make a series of commitments and are held accountable in order to remain as participants.