Letter to the Clerk of the Committee from
Anna Jenkins, Director, Forest Stewardship Council UK Working
FSC UK is aware that other organisations are
preparing submissions giving opinions on the Government's implementation
of its timber procurement policy. The comments below do not seek
to unnecessarily repeat comments, as far as we are aware, made
by other organisations.
This submission will address the following points:
1. What is the Forest Stewardship Council
(FSC) system of certification and how does it work?
2. Was an FSC certified alternative to Sapele
available for the cabinet office doors?
3. Is there really little or no supply of
4. The development of the forest certification
system for domestically produced timber.
1. FSC is an independent, global, non-profit,
non-governmental organisation. It is an association of Members
founded by a diverse group of representatives from environmental
and social groups, the timber trade and forestry profession, manufacturers
and retailers, indigenous people's organisations, community forestry
groups and forest product certification organisations from around
the world. Membership is open to all who share its aims and objectives.
It provides an umbrella organisation and structure
within which qualified independent certifiers, operating their
own national or international certification schemes, can operate
according to clear guidelines and using agreed global standards
covering social, environmental and economic aspects of forest
management drawn up by professionals in forestry as well as in
ecology and in rural and social development. Once certified, timber
and timber-based products originating from that forest or woodland
are eligible to carry the FSC Trademark, thus identifying the
products as coming from FSC certified forests. Only products which
are so certified are legally authorised to carry the FSC Trademark.
FSC therefore provides an incentive in the marketplace
for good forestry practice. The system operates globally and can
be applied to any forest in the world.
Why was FSC formed?
FSC was formed to provide consumers, both at
the general public and retailer, manufacturing and large scale
procurement levels, with reliable information about forest products.
Growing public concern about the destruction of the world's forests
has provoked more and more organisations to demand products from
well managed forests. This, in turn, led to a proliferation of
forest product certification systems and many dubious or false
claims made on forest products. FSC aims to clear up the confusion
by providing a truly independent, international and credible labelling
system on timber and timber products. This provides the consumer
with a guarantee that the product has come from a forest which
has been evaluated and certified as being managed according to
agreed social and environmental principles and criteria.
When was it formed?
In September 1993 in Toronto, 130 representatives
from around the world representing social, economic and environmental
interests came together to hold the Founding Assembly of the Forest
Stewardship Council. In October 1993 an agreement was reached
to launch FSC, and by August 1994 a definitive global set of Principles
and Criteria for Forest Stewardship, together with Statutes for
the Council, were agreed and approved by the votes of the Founding
Who runs FSC?
It is controlled by an elected Board which consists
of people from environmental, social and economic chambers, ie
from industry, conservation groups, indigenous people's representatives
and others. Voting amongst the membership is balanced between
the three chambers.
How does FSC operate?
FSC evaluates, accredits and monitors independent
certification organisations which inspect forest operations and
grant labels certifying that timber has been produced from well
managed forests. FSC does not itself certify products; its mandate
is to accredit and monitor the certifiers.
There are National Working Groups operating
in a number of countries including the UK, which interpret the
FSC Principles and Criteria in an appropriate manner for the local
forest types and conditions. These groups have to present an agreed
set of national or regional standards to be used for independent
certification of forests in their particular countries. In addition
the FSC UK Working Group promotes FSC in the UK, runs a comprehensive
information service and helpline (open to civil servants too)
to assist businesses, local authorities, foresters and the general
public to apply and understand certification and source the FSC
products they are looking for.
What is Certification?
Certification is the process of inspecting particular
forests or woodland to see if they are being managed according
to the FSC Principles and Criteria.
Who does the Certifying?
Certification is done by the independent organisations
which are evaluated, accredited and monitored by FSC (11 around
the world at the current time). They must have the skills, experience
and resources to inspect forest operations to ensure that they
are well managed according to the rules laid down by FSC.
What happens between the forest and the shop/supplier?
There is a monitoring and tracking system, known
as a "chain of custody", in place through every stage
in the supply chain, operated by the certification bodies. A separate
chain of custody certificate is issued each time it passes from
one stage to the next. The product label will identify the certification
body responsible for the chain of custody.
Chain of custody is the assurance that a buyer
or specifier really is getting what they asked for: timber from
well-managed forests (FSC does not use the term "sustainable"
as there are many different definitions and most importantly it
does not believe that the term can applied without a retrospective
view as what we might believe to be "sustainable" today
may not prove to be so several years down the line).
To be certain that FSC timber was supplied for
a building contract for example the installing and supplying contractors
would need to have a chain of custody.
Who supports FSC?
FSC is the only worldwide organisation offering
an independent, credible timber certification scheme for all forest
types and plantations, and as such has already received endorsement
and active commitment from a wide range of respected NGOs, including
WWF, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Fauna & Flora International,
and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Overseas, indigenous
peoples' groups actively support FSC. It is the only system of
certification in the world to have the active support of such
NGOs. Here in Britain, FSC has the support of a large and growing
number of companies, using both home grown and imported timber,
who want to be able to demonstrate to their customers that they
are taking a pro-active and responsible attitude to improving
the environmental performance of their company.
2. An FSC certified alternative to Sapele
was available to the contractors to the cabinet office refurbishment
had they specified it. We made enquiries to the timber supplier
Timbmet who told us that either "Jatoba", "Red
Cambara" or "Santa Maria" would have made good
substitutes for Sapele. All are FSC certified tropical timbers,
Jatoba in particular is most available in large commercial quantities.
It is important that contact is made with timber suppliers early
on in the contract so that FSC certified timber can be sourced
in time, in this case Jatoba would have been available immediately
but often some extra lead time is needed to find FSC timber.
Specifiers need to be open to alternatives that
they may not have heard of before but that the timber supplier
can advise on the working properties.
3. There is an enormous availability of
FSC certified timber now, although this is not comprehensive over
all timber types and countries of origin. Suppliers of UK grown
timber have reported frequently that they do not perceive enough
supply (UK Forest Products Association). Other suppliers in the
UK have spent a year trying to sell FSC certified plywood and
a very low or non-existent price premium.
Greenpeace have reported that companies in the
Amazon would like to become FSC certified but do not perceive
enough demand. There therefore seems to a classic chicken and
egg situation perpetuated by on-going myths that there is no certified
material available so therefore best not to bother even asking.
We strongly urge the Government to ask for FSC certified timber.
Without such a demand supply will never be forthcoming.
4. Below is a history of the certification
standards setting process in the UK:
(a) The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
oversees a system of forest certification and product labelling.
It is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation
founded in 1993 by a diverse group of representatives from environmental,
social and economic groups from around the world. It is committed
to bridging the gap between responsible producers and consumers
of forest products worldwide, and membership is open to all who
share its aims and objectives. There are now more than 20 million
hectares of FSC certified forest around the world (Jan 2001 figures).
(b) The FSC UK Working Group was set up in
1995 and has developed a FSC GB Standard for forest management
according to FSC technical and process guidelines.
(c) The FSC GB Standard was endorsed by the
FSC International Board at their September 1998 meeting. It is
the Standard that FSC accredited certification bodies working
in Great Britain are required to use.
(d) The FSC UK Working Group was satisfied
that a sufficient range of views had been taken into account in
the development of the GB Standard but there were still several
significant producer and processor industry groups which had not
taken part in the process. The FSC UK Group recognised this as
an area in which extra effort was required and explored various
ways of involving this important group of stakeholders.
(e) In late 1997 the Forestry Commission
offered to provide a neutral forum in which the FSC Group and
those not involved in FSC could meet to see if a mutually acceptable
approach to certification in the UK could be developed. This offer
was accepted and a series of meetings of all interested parties
(f) In early 1998 the Forestry Commission
presented a report on the gaps between the UK Government Forestry
Standard and the FSC requirements. It was agreed that the remaining
gaps between the two documents could be filled so that a standard
could be prepared that met the requirements of both the FSC and
(g) Between February 1998 and September 1998
a drafting and consultation process was carried out by the Forestry
Commission. The consultants contracted to draft UKWAS were a consortium
made up of SGS, The Soil Association, Simon Pryor and William
Walker. The FSC UK Steering Group and Standards Group were fully
involved in this process. In addition to the timber growers and
processors, UKWAS also brought in trade union and local government
representation which had been weak in the FSC UK process. All
interested FSC Members were involved.
(h) In December 1998 the FSC UK Annual Members
Meeting passed a motion welcoming the UKWAS process while still
awaiting the detail of the final text before formally endorsing
it as entirely compatible with the FSC GB Standard.
(i) In May 1999 the FSC UK Steering Group
and Standards Group met to prepare a response UKWAS. The differences
between the UKWAS Standard and FSC Standard for GB were discussed.
The final text appeared to be compatible with the FSC GB Standard.
The structure is different from the FSC P&C but the requirements
of the FSC GB Standard are all included in some form. It was agreed
that some minor alterations to the FSC GB Standard and expanding
its scope to become a FSC UK Standard, should be made so that
full compatibility with UKWAS is achieved. In addition a Cross
Reference Document was produced to allow for quick comparison
between the FSC UK Standard, the UKWAS Standard and the FSC P&C.
The Cross Reference Document also highlights areas where particular
care is needed in the interpretation of UKWAS in order to deliver
the FSC Standard as well as areas the FSC UK Working Group wish
to see carefully monitored by certification bodies to assist with
future revisions of the FSC UK Standard.
(j) In July 1999 the FSC UK Annual Members
Meeting passed a motion approving the FSC UK Standards Group working
on the members behalf. The members present approved the proposed
changes to the Standard and that they did not need to be further
consulted regarding this set of changes to the Standard. UKWAS
is welcomed by the FSC UK Steering Group because of the wider
consensus it has brought to certification within the UK without
compromising the standards required by FSC.
(k) In September 1999 a meeting was held
of stakeholders in Northern Ireland to ensure that they were happy
with the new FSC UK Standard. The Standard was approved unanimously.
(l) The UKWAS Standard, FSC UK Standard and
the Cross Reference Document were presented to the FSC secretariat
in Mexico in October 1999. In doing this FSC UK sought verification
that the two standards were equivalent.
(m) Following the October 1999 FSC Board
meeting, the FSC secretariat endorsed the new FSC UK Standard.
FSC Executive Director Tim Synnott further issued a statement
recognising that the UKWAS and the FSC-endorsed UK Forest Management
Standards are fully equivalent in all elements, including quality
and performance requirements. Compliance with either Standard
will assure equal compliance with the other. The two Standards
remain separate documents, but the FSC trademark may be used by
those who meet the UKWAS Standard when supported by certificates
from FSC-accredited certification bodies.
(n) Update January 2001: The UKWAS Steering
Group meets at least three times a year and includes four FSC
UK representatives as well as many other FSC members. The Steering
Group works by consensus only. UKWAS has an interpretation panel
with two experts each from the environmental, social and economic
sectors. In addition there is a ChairmanSimon Pryorwho
is an FSC UK representative. John Palmer, Chair of the FSC UK
Standards Group, sits on the interpretation panel as an advisor
but has no vote. It should be noted the UKWAS is only a standard.
There is no provision for a UKWAS labelling scheme; the Standard
was designed to fit into international labelling systems. At the
moment UKWAS can only deliver the FSC label.
In 1999 a request was made to the UKWAS Steering
Group by the Timber Growers Association (as the UK Pan European
Forest Certification Scheme (PEFC) observer on the PEFC Council)
to submit the UKWAS Standard to the PEFC Council for endorsement.
Discussions have taken place since as to whether this should take
place. A year ago Wildlife and Countryside Link, the body representing
environmental NGOs on the UKWAS Steering Group, wrote to PEFC
UK asking some questions about the PEFC scheme. There are still
some questions remaining unanswered. As yet therefore there is
no consensus agreement in the UKWAS Steering Group that the UKWAS
Standard should be submitted to the PEFC Council. The concerns
are mainly, although not exclusively, from environmental and social
representatives; discussions are unlikely to proceed further until
the outstanding questions sent to PEFC UK are answered. FSC UK
does not oppose the submission of UKWAS Standard to the PEFC Council.