FSC launches investigation into paulownia wood supply chain

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has launched a transaction verification loop (TV loop) on FSC-certified paulownia, a type of hardwood species that is native across Asian countries, such as China, Japan, Korean, Laos and Vietnam.

According to FSC, a TV loop is “is the verification process required by the FSC chain of custody standard to ensure that FSC output claims made by certificate holders are accurate and match the FSC input claims of their trading partners”. It is established by FSC and its assurance partner, the Assurance Services International (ASI).

The scope of the TV loop covers 67 certificate holders who trade in all types of products made of paulownia. Geographically, it will cover 21 countries, with a focus on China as it has the maximum number of companies involved in the FSC-certified paulownia supply chains.

Beginning with the first phase of the TV loop — data collection and analysis — FSC and ASI are revisiting FSC-certified paulownia supply chains to ensure that the integrity risks identified through continued monitoring are recognised and addressed. Preliminary results of the first phase will be available in Q1 2023.

As paulownia is a high-risk supply chain for FSC, the TV loop will provide insights into the effect of FSC’s advice note — the FSC Advice Note 40-004-20 — on the FSC-certified paulownia supply chains.

The advice note declared: “Organisations shall not include paulownia or products containing paulownia in their product group list, nor sell or label products containing paulownia. The only exception is if the organisation can trace the paulownia carrying an FSC claim to its FSC certified forest management unit of origin through documentary evidence.”

This is not the first time FSC has conducted a TV loop into paulownia supply chains. In 2019, FSC and ASI launched a TV loop on FSC-certified paulownia which revealed that between 2018-2020 none of the forest management certificate holders trading in FSC-certified paulownia had reported any sales.

FSC and ASI reportedly uncovered systematic violations of FSC certification requirements by companies that were trading non-certified paulownia products as certified. As a result, these companies were subject to the termination or suspension of their FSC certificates and trademark licenses, or further investigations.