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Response from FSC's Kim Carstensen to Yale Environment 360 Article

28 Feb 2018

Richard Conniff’s article in Yale Environment 360 highlights a simple fact: Illegal logging is big business - Interpol estimates it to be as much as $150 billion per year – and there is no single panacea to stop it.

Unfortunately, the one-sided article chose to focus solely on a few negative examples rather than including perspectives from the large number responsible forest managers, environmental NGOs, Indigenous Peoples and forward-looking businesses who comprise the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

That point notwithstanding, FSC is the world’s most trusted forest certification system for good reasons.

As Conniff acknowledges, FSC has been shown to prevent deforestation in FSC-certified forests and to improve living conditions for people in tropical developing countries. We offer a platform for constructive engagement between interests, which is the basis for FSC’s legitimacy and the reason organizations like Greenpeace and WWF consider FSC to be the best and most credible forest certification system.

When FSC receives complaints of violations, including illegal logging, we follow a rigorous dispute resolution procedure, conduct field investigations, engage affected stakeholders and take action. This is true for the cases that Conniff raises.

For example, FSC disassociated from Holzindustrie Schweighofer based on concerns about the legality of their operations in Romania, which means they cannot hold an FSC certificate anywhere in the world and none of their wood products can bear the FSC label. In the case of Inversiones La Oroza, the wood in question was not FSC certified and the alleged activities took place outside the scope of any FSC certification.

These two cases make a critical point: FSC can take responsibility for preventing deforestation and forest degradation inside the FSC certified areas, but we cannot stop deforestation everywhere in the world.

FSC is one part of the due care required to avoid trade in illegally sourced forest products, working in conjunction with law enforcement, independent investigations, and regulations. It is for this reason that FSC values the work of groups like the Environmental Investigation Agency.

For companies and consumers trying to do the right thing, however, FSC offers a simple way to take meaningful action. With 500 million acres certified, we represent 10 percent of working forests in the world. By and large, these forests and the people managing them represent the best of the industry. And there is a growing body of peer-reviewed literature describing the positive benefits FSC achieves for biodiversity, carbon storage, local communities and more.

With more than 35,000 companies in the FSC system, there will always be a few bad actors, and FSC has procedures in place to disassociate from them. But the vast majority of FSC-certified companies are committed to responsible forest management. The article does these conservation-minded forest managers a disservice.

We invite Conniff to visit FSC-certified forests in the Tropics, in Russia or in North America, and to talk with the people managing them. Through such interactions we are confident he will gain a fuller perspective of the challenges facing the world’s forests and the positive role FSC plays in addressing them.