What’s all the FuSC about?

Know­ing your cer­ti­fi­ca­tion marks is a good start to mak­ing re­spon­si­ble choices around the tim­ber and pa­per prod­ucts you buy

Element - - Primary Industry - By Tim Rainger

The re­cent, very pub­lic stoush be­tween Green­peace and Cot­ton­soft over the lat­ter’s al­leged rain­for­est tim­ber used to make its toi­let pa­per has brought the is­sue of wood and pa­per use by con­sumers into sharp fo­cus.

“Green­peace ac­cuses Cot­ton­soft of green­wash­ing” screamed the me­dia re­lease from Green­peace. The com­pany coun­ter­claimed that Green­peace had used in­ac­cu­rate test­ing meth­ods. The Green Party and WWF joined the fray in sup­port of Green­peace’s method­ol­ogy, then The Ware­house sus­pended sales of all Cot­ton­soft prod­ucts.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, the com­pany came out swing­ing, cit­ing their PEFC cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, and stat­ing: “This means that Cot­ton­soft prod­ucts do not con­tain any high con­ser­va­tion value wood, which is fully pro­tected un­der In­done­sian law.” Given that In­done­sia has one of the fastest rates of for­est de­struc­tion in the world, with more than one mil­lion hectares of rain­for­est be­ing cleared ev­ery year, these claims sound ten­u­ous at best. If the independent lab that tested the sam­ple prod­ucts supplied by Green­peace are valid, then ei­ther Cot­ton­soft is not play­ing by the rules or the PEFC cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is mean­ing­less.

Green­peace clearly be­lieves the lat­ter with no PEFC prod­ucts rec­om­mended as safe in their “Rain­for­est Friendly Toi­let Pa­per Guide.”

This af­fair poses ques­tions about the value of PEFC and other com­pet­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, and high­lights some of the dilem­mas faced by con­scious con­sumers, be­wil­dered by what they all mean.

The is­sue of sus­tain­abil­ity of tim­ber is com­pli­cated be­cause it is not just about whether the trees are re­planted af­ter har­vest­ing, but also en­com­passes a host of other con­sid­er­a­tions such as the use of in­sec­ti­cides, loss of habi­tat, species de­struc­tion, and the rights of in­dige­nous landown­ers to name just a few.

We live in a cul­ture that both pro­duces and con­sumes vast amounts of tim­ber in a range of prod­ucts and forms, so it seems log­i­cal to ex­am­ine the ex­ist­ing stan­dards in the in­dus­try, and take a look at the wider is­sue, with all its ram­i­fi­ca­tions. De­for­esta­tion of trop­i­cal rain­for­est be­came a global con­cern in the 1980s as en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and gov­ern­ments re­alised their piv­otal role in pro­tect­ing bio­di­ver­sity and reg­u­lat­ing the earth’s at­mos­phere.

At the time, a num­ber of eco­nomic and reg­u­la­tory mech­a­nisms such as fi­nan­cial aid, pol­icy frame­works and trade con­ven­tions were the sole weapons in the fight against de­for­esta­tion.

The For­est Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil (FSC) was es­tab­lished in 1993 af­ter the Rio Earth Sum­mit, at which gov­ern­ments failed to reach agree­ment re­lat­ing to man­age­ment strate­gies for re­main­ing vir­gin forests. As such, it rep­re­sents one of the first ex­am­ples of har­ness­ing mar­ket sen­ti­ment to cre­ate pos­i­tive change on global en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

But since then, a range of other cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems have ap­peared, with dif­fer­ing cri­te­ria for com­pli­ance. These in­clude SFI (Sus­tain­able Forestry Ini­tia­tive) and Amer­i­can Tree Farm Sys­tem (ATFS) in North Amer­ica, and PEFC (Pro­gramme for Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of For­est Schemes) which started in Europe and is now global.

They each at­tempt to ad­dress is­sues such as il­le­gal log­ging, de­for­esta­tion and cli­mate change and seek to as­suage consumer fears about the ori­gins of the tim­ber in the prod­ucts they buy. FSC is the most strin­gent of them, with ac­cred­ited sup­pli­ers hav­ing to meet a range of stan­dards. The idea of the FSC logo is to guar­an­tee that the prod­ucts bear­ing its mark come from “en­vi­ron­men­tally ap­pro­pri­ate, so­cially ben­e­fi­cial and eco­nom­i­cally vi­able sources.” FSC is the only for­est cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem that is sup­ported by al­most all ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal groups. FSC is also the only cer­ti­fi­ca­tion scheme ap­proved for cred­its in the Green Build­ing Rat­ing Sys­tems of all of the Green Build­ing Coun­cils of Aus­tralia, New Zealand, South Africa, UK, and USA.

Glen Mackie, se­nior pol­icy an­a­lyst from the NZ For­est Own­ers as­so­ci­a­tion states: “PEFC has vir­tu­ally no up­take in NZ whereas 52 per cent of New Zealand forests are FSC cer­ti­fied. De­spite the rel­a­tively high cost of com­pli­ance, there isn’t any price premium to be gained by cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, though it does of­fer ac­cess to mar­kets that are closed to non-cer­ti­fied prod­uct. A good ex­am­ple of this is the big box US stores which will only buy FSC pa­per and card­board.” He ad­mits to the prob­lems caused by com­pet­ing stan­dards. Mark Stevens from global pa­per gi­ant SCA/Tork says: “In New Zealand we have cho­sen to go with FSC cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for 80 per cent of the Tork range and all of the Purex range, be­cause we be­lieve the fact that is independent, and it is a glob­ally con­sis­tent stan­dard gives it more rigour.”

An­other ex­cel­lent op­tion for con­sumers is to buy prod­ucts which are pro­duced en­tirely from re­cy­cled pa­per or wood waste. ABC Tis­sue, which pro­duces the Earth­care range of toi­let pa­per, is one of the heavy­weights in this area, us­ing over 42,000 tonnes of re­cy­cled pa­per each year – an ini­tia­tive which saves mas­sive amounts of water and en­ergy in the pro­duc­tion process.

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