May 3, 2016

5 reasons for being suspicious about the forest certification systems FSC and PEFC

In the latest years, Acréscimo has been noticing more and more reasons to be suspicions about the credibility of forest certification based on the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Endorsement of Forest Certification Program (PEFC) systems, the way they operate in Portugal.

1.     Due to the complicity with unrestrained deforestation situation and uncontrolled spread of exotic species plantations, with high environmental, social and economic risks;  

2.     Due to the suspected absence of permanent monitoring in the deposition of industrial waste in certified forest areas with potential risks to public health, especially to the rural populations;
3.     Due to the association, on the chain of custody, to entities involved on public complaint for breach of environmental legislation, with serious situations related to an international river course pollution;
4.     Due to the predisposition to take advantage of public funding support through the Common Agricultural Policy and the National Budget (PDR 2020), including the Permanent Forest Fund, to overcome their tenuous expansion in markets under imperfect competition;
5.     Due to the lack of transparency on the funding model mechanisms of its activities, especially on the financial flows, directly or indirectly related to demand of industrial oligopolies.
Acréscimo considers that the FSC and PEFC certification systems, such as currently applied in Portugal, are shrouded in suspicions that undermine their credibility. Everything leads us to believe that the certification business outstripped the principles underlying the certification.

Acréscimo will question these certification systems international administrations about the credibility of the actions of its partners in Portugal.

April 27, 2016

Celtejo, environmental crimes and certification

According to public denounce, Celtejo assumes that fails to meet one of the fundamental parameters of the attributed environmental license: the parameter related to oxygen, essential for life. The complaint alleges the practice of environmental crime in the Tejo River, through illegal industrial waste discharges.

Celtejo – Empresa de Celulose do Tejo S.A. is a company that belongs to the universe of the Altri Group, which produces bleached eucalyptus pulp of BEKP type (Bleached Eucalyptus Kraft Pulp)

Celtejo has chain of responsibility certification, issued by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), by the certifying entity APCER.

The forestry chain of responsibility certification requires full compliance with the laws, necessarily including compliance with the conditions of the license awarded by the Portuguese authorities.

This company has also a certification under ISO 14001: 2015.

The complaint was issued by public television channel in Portugal, RTP, on "Sexta às 9", and it’s also available on the broadcaster website

Acréscimo believes that certifications attributed to Celtejo should not be considered valid, given the denunciation of major non-conformity, requiring international audits and re-evaluation, either by the FSC, PEFC and ISO.

April 18, 2016

The credibility of forest certification in Portugal

The successful achievement of sustainable forest management (SFM) is vital to Portugal, an uncontrolled case of deforestation in Europe.

Forest certification (FC) is a market tool that claims to be based on recognition of SFM.

But, how can FC business coexist with deforestation in Europe?

In Portugal, some family-owners and some of their organizations perform an extra effort to implement SFM on their properties, particularly in forest management groups, investing in is external recognition namely by CF. However, they represent less than 50% of the total area certified in the country.

Recently, certification systems operating in Portugal, as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), intend to move towards regional certification level. More than that: for this purpose, they would like to use public support, integrated within the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), distorting the principles they should be based on. That is, they want to overcome the outdated poor adherence to this tool - on markets operating in imperfect competition - by the direct support financed by taxpayers. Taxpayers, so, run into the risk of financing an alleged double-charged “transparent” business:  as taxpayers and as consumers.

The coexistence of FC systems with a deforestation situation under no control in Portugal is striking. The country has lost, in a quarter-century, more than one quarter million hectares of its forest area. In annual average, it is the equivalent of Lisbon area - ​​10 thousand hectares per year, since 1990.

Breaches to the Basic Law, the National Forest Strategy and the international commitments assumed by Portugal, in the field of Sustainable Development and of Climate Change and Global Warming, are statistically and successively notorious. The fact is revealed by United Nations (FAO), Eurostat and European Environment Agency reports. But none of them seems to be taken into consideration when one intends to enable the business of FC.

The entities in Portugal, representing FSC and PEFC, have a strong financial dependence of entities that support markets operating through imperfect competition in the country. Portugal has with strong focus on demand, where supply is characterized by 98.4% of the forests under non-public management - more than 80% family-owned. However, that too seems irrelevant to the support of FC business. Even though this market model has been leading to strong consequences in terms of destruction of natural resources, the depreciation of the territory, as the catastrophic spread of forest fires (where the country stands out internationally) and the proliferation of uncontrolled pests and diseases.

The question that arises is whether, at international level, either the FSC or PEFC are colluding with the situation of deforestation in Portugal. Apparently they are! Then, their internal and international credibility would be questionable too!

Isn´t the feasibility of FC, as a business, overlapping the transparency that should be transmitted to the markets?

Is this not an instrument based on hypocrisy?

September 23, 2014

Tetra Pak, Ikea and Kingfisher initiative to evaluate the impact of FSC forest certification

Acréscimo welcomes the announcement by Tetra Pak, Ikea and Kingfisher regarding the group initiative to evaluate and clarify the role of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) on forest certification.

For a year, Acréscimo has been requesting to go through technical visits on places where industrial wastes have been disposed on certified forests soils, managed by pulp and paper companies. This has not been authorized yet.

Although being in Portugal for over a decade, the evidence of of the waste disposal motorization in certified forests has not been part of the agenda in the Audits performed under the FSC  schemes.

In addition to the environmental impacts associated with this practice, the consequences of industrial waste application on forest soils can contribute harmful for public health.

Despite of the customers’ benefits of purchasing products from certified forest, the main question is that FSC has not given assurances regarding the monitoring of potential impacts associated with the application of waste on the forests it certifies, especially on forests managed or owned by industrial groups who also produces such waste.

FSC expresses great weakness in its performance in Portugal. This attitude generates strong doubts about its commitment regarding the goals and standards that the system itself has defined. It should be noted that these industry groups represent more than 70% of forests certified by the FSC system in Portugal. Will there be here any “protection” to its customers?

Even being in Portugal for many years, only recently - after the intervention of Acréscimo - FSC Portugal claimed it has initiate the motorization of waste application on certified forests. However, this unique action is clearly insufficient. The issue, in accordance with the FSC International, requires continuous monitoring applications, right from the moment FSC certifies the entities (2007) that practice application of residues on soils under their management.

To be consistent with the objectives and guarantees that it claims to support before the Society, FSC must ensure the existence of instruments for continuous monitoring certified forest areas, subject of to the application of municipal and industrial waste. Its actions must be supported by scientific knowledge produced by independent entities, based on national ecosystems. That does not happen today.

With the announced increase of industrial capacity in paper industry in Portugal, the pressure on FSC is definitely assured.