FSC disassociates from Schweighofer, following WWF complaint
“For several years, WWF and other NGOs have raised alarm bells about HS’s links to illegal logging in Romania. The allegations are so serious that the decision announced by FSC is the only correct consequence,” said Johannes Zahnen, WWF Forest Officer. “It is our view that despite being given the window of opportunity to take responsibility and take concrete steps to change its practices, HS failed to properly acknowledge responsibility for irregularities and illegalities in its supply chain and convene a formal stakeholder engagement, both of which were part of FSC’s pre-conditions.”
FSC’s investigation into HS – one of Europe’s largest wood-industry companies – was prompted by a WWF complaint in November 2015. An independent panel appointed by FSC in 2016 to investigate the allegations against HS concluded that the company is involved in illegal timber trade and that its business practices are contradictory to FSC’s objectives (e.g. to exclude illegal logging and trade). In the probation period, WWF urged FSC to further investigate issues of legality and false measurement of incoming wood, raised first in WWF’s original complaint. This, and new allegations which emerged in the course of their preliminary investigation, led the FSC Board to conclude that it would be incompatible for probation to be extended.
“We hope HS takes FSC’s decision as an opportunity to make fundamental changes to its practices and to focus on legal and sustainable wood procurement,” Zahnen added. “We recommend the company quickly develops a clear and transparent action plan that sets them on a path towards sustainability.”
Consistent with WWF’s wider engagement with businesses to promote responsible forest management and trade, WWF recommends that HS set about some immediate steps that would serve as a basis for initiating future transparent and constructive dialogue with environmental and social stakeholders about a clear plan of corrective action. We call on HS to:
‐ Publish a clear timber sourcing policy in which it commits to securing FSC certified timber with Chain of Custody (CoC) for its timber needs across the entirety of its business, and provides an explicit statement on the exclusion of illegal timber as being its express responsibility.
‐ Release a proposal for transparent, structured stakeholder consultations on its performance and progress, to inform the development of a valid action plan to address weaknesses in the HS management of timber as identified to date (for example, addressing the need for improvement in its due diligence system, as noted in the Complaint Panels report).
‐ Submit itself to required FSC audits and publish the results.
For WWF, transparency is crucial to tackle illegal logging and to avoid the mixture of illegal timber into the legal market. In Romania’s case, this can be achieved specifically through strengthening the national wood tracking system and further increasing controls to properly enforce companies’ due diligence systems to avoid illegal wood. Romania has increased efforts in this regard over the last year. WWF will continue the fight against illegal logging and maintain the call for real transparency in the timber market. WWF considers FSC to be the strongest certification scheme at present and encourages FSC to install additional capacity in Romania and in the region to ensure that its principles and criteria are implemented effectively.
“The cases of irresponsible forest management in Romania can look like local issues, but they are not. They have a powerful global component and so the solutions also need global cooperation. This case is a very good example of how cross-border cooperation among civil society can solve important problems when voluntary and credible verification tools are applied,” said Magor Csibi, Director, WWF-Romania.
“Today’s announcement is a victory for forestry in Romania. The incredible number of people calling for disassociation shows us how important the future of Romania’s forests is to its citizens. It also demonstrates how the expertise of a conservation NGO can go hand in hand with civil society engagement. The decision by FSC is a very powerful signal that forests are not a free resource for irresponsible exploitation for immediate profit, but need to be safeguarded for the future.”