VicForests has failed to achieve the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) green tick. The final audit report by SCS Global has been released citing numerous major non conformances to the FSC standards. Logging and burning of old growth forest and threatened and protected species habitat, rainforest logging, intensive clear fell logging and breaches of the environmental laws were cited as reasons why the state owned logging agency should not be granted the FSC controlled wood tick of approval.
We submitted extensive material to the audit team that is referred to in their final report. Or submissions played a major role in exposing how far from meeting the standards VicForests are.
We submitted two reports to the auditors.
The first documented areas of high conservation value forests in East Gippsland being logged in breach of the FSC standards
The second submission was an appendix to our Lawless logging report that we released in September 2017. This report details 27 cases of logging that breached legal protection for rare wildlife and rainforest. We took examples from this report and applied the FSC standards to each, to demonstrate major non conformances to the FSC standard.
We also facilitated a tour of East Gippsland's forests with the audit team, viewing several logging operations that had impacted on high conservation values, in breach of the FSC standards. Click here to read a summary of the tour.
The final audit report cities major non conformances due to logging of old growth forest, threatened species habitat, rainforest.
The report also raises a major non conformance with VicForest compliance with local laws. After clear and abundant evidence of repeated breaches to the Code of Practice were provided to the audit team by GECO, the auditors found major non conformances with indicator 3 "Illegally harvested wood".
The FSC certification scheme is widely considered to be the global benchmark of sustainable forestry operations. Whilst the scheme has been heavily criticised in some cases, such as the controversial awarding of the certificate to old growth logging operations in in Western Australia, FSC still maintains much stronger standards and principles than the locally accredited Australia scheme "Responsible Wood" (formerly Australian Forestry Standard).
Businesses and consumers are increasingly demanding FSC certified wood and paper products an rejecting products sourced from unsustainable logging operations, such as those occurring in Victoria.
Two of VicForests major customers, Bunnings and Officeworks, recently announced they would dump Victorian native forest timber and paper products from their shelves in 2020, unless VicForests can achieve FSC certification.
FSC certification is essential for VicForests to achieve if they are to access markets and gain social license. It's very hard to see how VicForests will be able to meet the standards.
Logging of old growth forests, rainforest and threatened species habitat is a common occurrence for VicForests. Unless there is formal legislative protection for high conservation values forests and a swift transition out of native forests and into plantations and non timber sources of fibre, it's very difficult to see how VicForests will be able to reform their practices and achieve the certificate.
This is the third time the logging agency has failed its FSC audit and it looks set to be a long and most difficult road towards achieving the certificate, particularly in East Gippsland where many demonstrable examples of logging in very high conservation value forests exist.
Read the FSC audit report here detailing major non conformances to the standard and citing out submissions and field visits.
Logging in East Gippsland's high conservation value forests will need to completely cease if VicForests stands any chance at all of achieving the FSC certificate.