A Monopolist in the Trees?

I never associated “monopoly” with sustainable forestry standards. At least not until today when I read Craig Webb’s story in ProSales, “FSC Hikes a Fee, Goes After Competitors.” Webb reports that the Forest Stewardship Council’s General Assembly approved a policy motion directing FSC’s administrators to prohibit certifying bodies “from falsely promoting less rigorous competing standards as equivalent to the forest management and chain of custody standards of FSC.” It calls for a review of those certifying bodies’ promotional media when those groups come up for accreditation, and predicts that one result of this initiative will be “fewer certificates being issued for competing schemes.” Unlike other motions for the General Assembly, which often are initiated by global, European or Third World organizations, this one was proposed by Bill Hayward, president and CEO of Hayward Lumber, Monterrey, Calif., and chairman of the FSC’s U.S. arm.

Webb writes that “FSC dislikes this trend in part because it sees its standard as being better than the others.”

We all may feel that way about our standards. But if we are all truly dedicated to managing our forests sustainability, we would focus on the fact that only 10% of the world’s forests are certified. There is a lot of catching up to do. Why spend our time arguing over who the A+ student is? Why don’t we focus where we should – on the 90% that isn’t certified. Sure, I want SFI to continue its rapid growth, but I also want to see more certified land. Attempting to force everyone to use a single standard is a step backwards. The last thing our forests need is a “monopoly” certification standard. Monopolies serve no one’s interests: they drive up costs, limit improvements and reduce choice for customers and consumers. The increase in dual and triple certifications over the past year clearly indicates that the market place also supports this position.


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