Column: Forest certification programs competing?

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Michael Hermens

Michael Hermens Michael Hermens is the Managing Director of APP Timber and has been involved in the Asian timber industry for almost 25 years. Initially specialised in the design and manufacturing of kiln drying equipment he soon recognised the growing demand of imported sawn timber in South East Asia. As such he started Asia Panel Products Sdn. Bhd. which later was renamed "APP Timber" and became THE pioneer in promoting foreign timber to SE Asia.
Our company is for many years FSC certified and we fully support the Forest Stewardship Council in their pursuit to “promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests”. I found last week an advertisement by a Malaysian company offering certified furniture using incorrect PEFC and FSC logos and sent a copy to both PEFC and the Rainforest Alliance (whom is our FSC auditor). The reason I do this is to alert both organisations on companies claiming to be certified but often are not. This happens a lot in China where the illegal use of trademarks seems to be common practice. It is important that companies like us who play by the rules and pay large sums to maintain our certification are protected from those “cheaters”.

PEFC responded to my mail that they would investigate and one day later, I was notified that the European mother company of this particular Malaysian company was indeed PEFC certified but the logo they used was incorrect and the mother company had been informed.

Rainforest Alliance also came back the same day with a rather astonishing reply; “when a product is FSC labeled, marks of other forest certification schemes should not be used on the same product. Regarding this case, it’s not allowed to place FSC logo in the same position with PEFC logo. PEFC is FSC’s competitor in forest certification”. Surprisingly they did not even address the issue if the Malaysian company’s FSC claim was correct and instead their reply only focused on protecting their the use of their logo. The most incredible statement was that “PEFC is FSC’s competitor” which really blew me away.

I would think that FSC (and their appointed auditors) would appreciate ANY legitimate organisation promoting similar goals. For sure forest certification schemes like AFCS, MTCS, PEFC, TFT (to name a few) run credible programs and these should not be seen as ‘competition” unless of course if you are a commercial organisation and profits are your main concern.

By the way, to date I have no reply from the Rainforest Alliance nor FSC what action has been taken to verify if the Malaysian company is certified which makes me wonder if they are only concerned about the proper use of their logo or indeed providing services to law-abiding customers like us.
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