Best practice or greenwash: forest industry has a choice | WWF

Best practice or greenwash: forest industry has a choice

Posted on 24 February 2004
Certification needs to remain a credible tool. All of Austrian forests are PEFC certified, a label that did not fare well in FERN's analysis.
© WWF Austria
Austria, Vienna - WWF warns that greenwashing and misuse of forest certification could destroy one of the most effective tools for forest conservation in the world. WWF calls upon companies and forest stakeholders to continue serious engagement for credible forest certification instead of seeking an alibi for forest destruction and business as usual.
The warning follows today's release of a new report by the NGO FERN, Footprints in the Forest, which examined certification schemes as well as current trends in forest certification. FERN examined eight certification schemes: AFS, CSA, CERFLOR, FSC, PEFC, SFI MTCC and Certfor. Their report concludes that only certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) gives consumers clear assurances and is meaningful and trustworthy. 
Certification is at crossroads, with most forest certification schemes actually certifying the status quo. Only FSC demands minimum thresholds that a forest owner or forestry company must meet before they get certified, therefore it is the only scheme credible enough to carry a consumer label. Most schemes do not meet internationally agreed norms for certification schemes such as balanced participation, transparency, consistency, and measurable minimum performance-based standards. 
“Companies who choose non-credible schemes undermine the very concept of certification. It simply becomes a badge of convenience”, says Duncan Pollard, Head of WWF's European Forest Programme. “For example, PEFC uses one label for all its schemes although there is huge variability between some countries and in some there are no environmental performance requirements at all: certification happens overnight. With PEFC having recently become an umbrella organization for weak and controversial schemes in the tropics, the label really means nothing”. 
WWF emphasises that certification is a unique chance for nature and for companies. When applied correctly, it can make a difference in a forest, it can lift the image of the forest industry, and it offers companies a ready-made solution to marginalize controversial timbers.

“The FERN report shows that companies who are avoiding FSC as their preferred choice of scheme are simply creating an alibi for forest destruction. Those who are serious about making good forest management a standard around the world should choose FSC," says Pollard. 
With only 10 per cent of the world’s forests formally protected, the way in which forests outside these areas are managed is a key conservation issue. WWF believes that there is an urgent need for tools to promote improved forest management.

Forest certification under the auspices of the FSC is one tool that can be used to improve forest management and give recognition in the market place to timber from well-managed forests. However certification alone will not solve all forest management problems and a variety of other tools are needed such as community forest management, improved policy and legislation, and law enforcement. 
For further information: 
Helma Brandlmaier
Communications Officer, WWF European Forest Programme
Tel: +43 1 48817 217 or +43 676 83 488 217 (mobile) 

FERN promotes the conservation and sustainable use of forests, and respect for the rights of forest peoples in the policies and practices of the European Union.

The eight schemes examined in the FERN report are Canadian Standard’s Association (CSA), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Australian Forestry Standard (AFS), Sistema Brazileiro de Certificação Florestal (CERFLOR), Certificación Forestal (Certfor) and the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC). Footprints in the Forest updates and expands on FERN's 2001 report Behind the Logo that compared the four biggest certification schemes then in operation.  
Certification needs to remain a credible tool. All of Austrian forests are PEFC certified, a label that did not fare well in FERN's analysis.
© WWF Austria Enlarge