Forestry Advocacy Group Violates Own Standards, Harms Minorities

Published August 29, 2011

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) has released a report revealing the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is using endangered tropical species in its paper products, contradicting the organization’s claim it is the “gold-standard for responsible forest management.” 

The report, “Stop the War on the Poor—FSC and NGOs: Environmental Mythology,” notes FSC has hypocritically been calling out companies they claim to be using wood from tropical forests. 

The report also documents how FSC’ s “Big Green” platform serves special interests by pushing companies and consumers into purchasing expensive FSC-certified paper products, which damages the economies of communities in underdeveloped countries and raises the costs for minority consumers and other consumers in the United States. 

Stacked Against Free Enterprise

“FSC has been stacked with Big Green interests against free enterprise. So, instead of encouraging good forestry in poor countries, it now gets used to campaign against forestry in poor countries, period,” wrote Niger Innis, spokesperson for CORE and author of the report. 

“Big Green goes a long way to convince governments, companies and consumers that it’s the FSC-way or the highway. According to their logic, if you don’t switch to FSC, you might as well be killing tigers in your front yard. Well, this logic is a myth, just like the myth that FSC helps the world’s poor,” the report stated. 

“Who does this hurt?” asks Innis. “It hurts the developing world. It hurts the poor here at home and abroad. Poor people in Africa and South East Asia who are being told their forests don’t meet Big Green requirements. And poor and working class people here in the United States who have to pay more for the basics: books for learning, tissues for hygiene and lumber for housing.”

“The Congress of Racial Equality has been fighting for economic mobility for minorities in America and for economic development for the developing world for over 70 years,” Innis explains. “Economic opportunity is the final frontier for the civil rights movement here and the Human Rights movement abroad.”

Harming Species, Poor People

The CORE report exposes three FSC myths: 

Myth 1: FSC is Transparent—FSC disregards national and international forest management standards by self-assessing its own certification system, therefore ignoring what’s called arm’s length separation. More transparent certification systems, such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Program for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification, follow guidelines by allowing independent groups to assess their safety standards.

Myth 2: FSC Protects Endangered Species—After testing conducted by Convey Consulting, FSC paper products were found to contain wood from the endangered tropical red Lauan (shorea) tree. This tropical species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. 

Myth 3: FSC Helps the World’s Poor—FSC certified paper products can be found in stores such as Wal-Mart, but the increased costs hurt America’s fixed-income families and disadvantaged poor communities. 

Agenda Stifles Economic Growth

“In monitoring the environmental movement on a variety of issues, we came across the actions of FSC and the fact that you have a very strange and unusual relationship between some powerful environmental organizations and FSC,” Innis told Environment & Climate News. “We are very uncomfortable with the fact that you have an essentially FSC monopoly on forest management. And we believe because of that de facto monopoly, or near-monopoly, it was our responsibility to take a look at their practices and to see if they were indeed helping these communities that they were reporting to help or if they were actually stifling potential economic growth and development.”

“We know as Americans that the United States spent the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries maximizing natural resources, including timber, to rapidly grow and prosper economically. And that economic development has provided a lifestyle that is healthier and has provided more liberty, freedom, and opportunity than existed before. The Congress of Racial Equality has constituents and affiliates all around the world, particularly in the developing world, that would like to have that same opportunity without radical environmentalists and their international organizations intimidating people from utilizing their own natural resources,” Innis explained.

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.