Coillte Teoroanta, Irelands state forestry board, were Ireland’s first forest managers to buy into the forest certification process. They went with what is reputed to be the best certification system in the world - the FSC system Under FSC principles and procedures a draft sustainable forest management standard has been under preparation since 1999 by an organisation called the Irish Forestry Certification Initiative [IFCI] . FIE are members of both FSC and IFCI.
The process of standard development has been fraught with conflict. Many stakeholders are concerned as proper procedures have not been followed and Coillte appear to dominate the process. A particular environmental issue is that there has been no environmental input through the process to date to IFCIs draft standard used by Coilltes auditors to inform their generic stanard. The draft standard ('third draft') sent out for consultation in 2007 has now been ruled as unacceptable by FSC after grievances from stakeholders, including this organisation.
FSC also accepted FIEs Grievance based on the lack of open and transparent procedures. The failures of IFCI have, according to the Managing Director of ASI [Accreditation Services International] at a stakeholders meeting held in September 2007 in Limerick, damaged FSC's international reputation. ASI have now given the Irish national initiative one year (from September 2007) to complete the process or accreditation will be removed from the Irish Forestry Certification Initiative.
On 20 October, 2007 a stakeholders meeting was held in Dublin and representatives were selected to join with FSC and ASI to agree a new approach. The stakeholders meeting was held on December 8 , 2007 in Limerick at which a presentation was given of FSCs FSCs proposed new approach . At this meeting it was agreed that two volunteers would develop a management or business plan around the proposal and then another open meeting would be held.
We are still waiting for the next stakeholder meeting and have heard nothing from FSC. IFCI continue to operate with no consultation - not even with their members.
In September 2008 Friends of the Earth (FoE) became the first major international NGO to confirm that it no longer recognises the value of FSC certificates. FoE England's website advises that FoE "is deeply concerned by the number of FSC certifications that are now sparking controversy and threatening the credibility of the scheme. We cannot support a scheme that fails to guarantee high environmental and social standards. As a result we can no longer recommend the FSC standard".
FIE fully support this position and would encourage other international NGOs such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund to withdraw their support for FSC and give a voice to the many small national NGOs protesting about FSC greenwashing.