‘On the Ground: The controversies of PEFC and SFI' details a series of cases, including how indigenous peoples' rights in Chile, Canada and Sweden have been dismissed, how massive old growth forest destruction has been certified as "sustainable" in the USA, Tasmania and Sweden, and how clear cutting tropical rainforest to make room for plantations has been endorsed in Indonesia.
"Not all forest certification schemes are created equal", said Judy Rodrigues, forest campaigner with Greenpeace International. "The results of the On the Ground investigation clearly show that certification schemes must deliver real change in forest management on the ground to be considered successful. Unfortunately, PEFC is failing to do this; buyers should beware of greenwash when considering PEFC and SFI labelled wood products".
The researchers for the On the Ground report found that PEFC and SFI certified forests fail on key ecological and social parameters that wood and paper buyers expect from a credibly certified product. Drawing from fourteen on-the-ground and eight procedural case studies the coalition report found that PEFC and SFI certified products:
Failed to protect forest values such as key habitats and endangered ecosystems.
Failed to consider adequately the needs of local and indigenous communities dependent on forests.
Failed to prevent the conversion of natural ecosystems to industrial tree plantations.
"While PEFC and SFI have offered many words about sustainability, this study looked at what is actually happening on the ground", continued Rodrigues. "What we found is that these certification schemes do not represent sustainably or responsibly managed forests in a number of cases, at several locations around the globe".
"PEFC trumpets itself as the world's leading forest certification system even as it continues to allow its brand to be misused by the notorious Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) in Indonesia", said Rodrigues. "APP is converting rainforests and high value carbon peat forests into plantations, yet PEFC considers this plantation wood to be ‘non-controversial'. A number of these plantations are established in areas that should be legally protected under Indonesian law, but wood from there continues to be mixed into PEFC paper products and sold under its ‘green' label around the world".
In Malaysia, an organisation called JOAS, the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia, are clear about the failure of the PEFC's endorsed Malaysia Timber Certification Scheme's (MTCS) to recognise and protect their rights.
"MTCC does not recognize nor protect indigenous peoples' rights over traditional lands. This is despite the fact that several court decisions have actually recognized indigenous peoples´ native customary rights to land", said Jen Rubis from JOAS.
The On the Ground report also found issues about the quality and reliability of the chain of custody system, demonstrating weak, and some cases, no minimum regional standards exist for wood getting into PEFC and SFI-labelled products to the point of not knowing the origin of the wood and if the forest is being sustainably managed.
The study concludes that PEFC and SFI labels do not provide the reassurance that their certified forests and products are being managed sustainably and that buyers of these products are at risk of purchasing products that do not meet the ecological and social standards they could reasonably expect when purchasing a ‘certified' product.
"PEFC must make two choices in order to meet these promises", said Jim Ford, the Director of Climate for Ideas, ‘By raising its forest management standards it will either have to revoke a number of certificates where indigenous and community rights have not been respected, biodiversity values are not being protected and forest conversion has occurred; or it will have to verify changes on the ground have actually happened."