Recent media reports examined the Austrian parquet market and its Ukrainian suppliers, and some have raised doubts about the effectiveness of FSC controls in Ukraine.
They suggest FSC certification is not an effective means of punishing or exposing violations of FSC standards in cases where companies or forestry operations are associated with corruption and organized crime.
In a press release responding to the reports, FSC said that it is a voluntary certification system for social, economic and ecologically sustainable forest management. By means of supply chain certification, FSC ensures a direct link between end products and positive incentives for forestry. All certified forest owners and companies are bound to comply with the relevant FSC standards. These forestry standards are based on international principles and criteria.
As a voluntary instrument, FSC certification alone cannot solve all the problems associated with poor forest management or the illegal timber trade. FSC certification is an additional control instrument for safeguarding timber supply chains. FSC condemns any criminal acts or unfair behaviour on the part of its certificate holders. By its very nature, monitoring by independent organisations such as FSC cannot replace government oversight. The fight against criminal activities requires a joint effort by all societal actors – state institutions, NGOs, social groups, local communities and companies.
FSC is aware of the difficult environment in Ukraine. As a result, the country is already subject to additional control procedures for FSC certified forestry and supply chains. For example, the independent, FSC-accredited auditors (controllers) are regularly accompanied by controllers from the international quality assurance organisation Assurance Services International (ASI). This also includes unannounced company inspections. Our local representative, FSC Ukraine, works closely with FSC International to further tighten the local controls to ensure that they are better suited to the difficult environment currently prevailing in the country. In principle, however, the FSC rules for processing facilities are the same across the world. In the event of proven violations of the certification requirements or the fundamental FSC values, the certificates will be suspended or withdrawn.
Following the media reports, FSC lodged a complaint with ASI regarding the companies in question. If the allegations are confirmed, this may lead to further review of the certificates and, if necessary, to additional consequences. Early in December, “Zunami” – a company named in the media reports – was investigated, and investigations will continue.
The media reports also raised questions about an individual, who is both the managing director of one of the companies under investigation and a member of the FSC standards development group. This standard development group is composed of equal numbers of representatives from environmental associations, trade unions and entrepreneurs/forest owners. Decisions on FSC forest standards are always taken by consensus, to ensure that the influence of any one individual remains very limited. The adopted forest standards are then reviewed and accredited by FSC International.
In addition, the FSC supply chain standard is the same worldwide and is verified by independent certification bodies. A deliberate organisational separation ensures that members of national FSC committees have no influence over the certification bodies, who in turn are accredited and audited by ASI.