Australian Forestry Standard (AFS): another PEFC in disguise?
Tim Cadman MA (Representative, Native Forest Network Southern Hemisphere,
spokesperson on certification for the National Forest Summit)
structural, process, market and content problems associated with the current
process for the AFS. They fall into two categories:
openness and transparency ;
independent, third party
certification of agreed performance standards;
product claims and market
Issues of particular
concern to environmental stakeholders (ENGOs) include:
Intent of the AFS
Consensus building and
Pace and timing.
environmental and economic elements need to be combined to deliver sustainable
forest management. The current
structure of the AFS is discriminatory against multi-stakeholder participation.
The Steering Committee is completely comprised of government and commercial
structure has restricted the access of some stakeholders to decision-making
processes. Other stakeholders have a larger degree of influence over the process
than other sectors and have already determined the parameters of the Standard
without wider consultation.
participation is a key component of the standards setting process.
In order to obtain
meaningful accreditation by Standards Australia, the structure of the Steering
Committee needs to include all key stakeholders. The same can be said of the
Technical Reference Committee. All interests need to be represented and balanced
to ensure no one interest or group of convergent interests - predominates.
For a certification
standard to enjoy market support, it must be clearly independent of government
and free from dominance by any one interest group. Furthermore, the operational
aspects of such a standard need to be monitored and audited by a third party.
The AFS has been
developed to date by Government, in collaboration with industry associations.
This challenges the assumption that the process is independent and
representative of all sectoral interests. It could be legitimately argued that
industry associations have been the principle contributors to the Standard to
date, particularly in its formative stages.
The general thrust
of the Standard to date has been to build on the forest management protocols and
processes outlined by Montreal and Australia’s various Regional Forest
Agreements, along with the development of management systems via the ISO
"14000" series. It is uncertain if these processes will provide for
independent monitoring and auditing of the standard. The use of forest practices
boards, or similar bodies, who are linked to forest management agencies and
industry is not sufficient. Furthermore, a management-systems approach to
operational issues does not necessarily guarantee that agreed on ground
performance of management has been attained on the FMU.
The AFS requires
provisions for allowing independent certification agencies to audit compliance
against the standard with the Standard, and to work with all stakeholders when
auditing reported breaches.
stakeholders are absent from key components of the standards setting process, it
is not possible to claim that the Standard has been developed in collaboration
with all stakeholders. Excluded parties are within their rights to inform the
market that the Standard does not enjoy cross-sectoral confidence. The very
purpose of the standard will therefore have been undermined.
On a number of
occasions materials generated by the AFS (or participants in the AFS process)
have claimed that the Standard has been developed in conservation interests.
The AFS should avoid
all such claims until they can be substantiated. Otherwise, a false and
misleading impression is created in the market. This will further undermine
confidence if and when the final Standard is. Until all relevant stakeholders
are meaningfully included in decision-making processes this claim cannot be made
on any materials.
On the information
that has been made available it is difficult for ENGOs to make an informed
assessment as to the intent of the Standard. Clearly, the international market
is demanding verifiable standards for management that enjoy the support of the
community. This is the main reason for the current market predominance of the
Forest Stewardship Council and the current lack of consumer confidence in such
schemes as Pan European Forest Certification. A credible certification system is
required that goes beyond superficial improvements and integrates the needs of
stakeholders other than forest managers and owners.
ENGOs therefore seek
a clear indication from the AFS as to its intent. Is it:
A certification standard
that will deliver a recogniseable label guaranteeing products that have been
sourced from well-managed operations supported by all stakeholders? Or
initiative that meets the requirements of government policy and has been
developed on behalf of industry?
ENGOs are deeply
concerned that the AFS will deliver a Standard that is based on existing
practices and policies. Clearly, the desire to develop an AFS is a recognition
that the market requires more than the current status quo, or there would be no
need for an Australia Forestry Standard. Therefore, to promote the current
regime as a new standard is deceptive.
concern is the possibility that any existing forestry operations could continue
under the Standard. Forest conversion to plantations, logging of old growth,
clearfelling, loss of threatened species habitat and chemical use are just some
of the elements of existing management practices that ENGOs feel must be
examined and negotiated by stakeholders. Clearly ENGOs could not support a
standard that refused to examine such issues.
ENGOs welcome the
desire of forest owners, managers and government to develop an AFS. The Steering
Committee is likely to be aware that ENGOs themselves are in the process of
exploring the value of national forestry standard and at this stage the
environmental requirements for certifying plantations in particular.
considerable scope to move forward with certification in Australia through these
two parallel initiatives. The most logical step would be to combine the two
processes, basing discussions around areas of commonality and working
cooperatively on those.
At this stage ENGOs
are primarily concerned with working cooperatively with the plantations sector
to develop a national certification standard. It is possible that this process
may lead to further engagement with the forestry sector, in particular as its
relates to private forest management, where there is a need to improve
standards. This in turn could lead to the development of consensus surrounding
public native forest management.
would like to see the AFS address the development of a standard for plantation
management as a first step in building confidence amongst all stakeholders.
Further discussions relating to other sources of wood products could ensue
depending on the degree of mutual trust generated via this initial standards
ENGOs are concerned
that the development of the Standard may be being driven by political, rather
than stakeholder considerations. They are of the opinion that a process that
delivers outcomes albeit over a longer timeframe is better than one that
collapses due to external pressures for a quick delivery. Furthermore, the
quality of such a Standard would be inferior to one that is produced in the
fullness of time.
therefore like to see the current timeframe of provision of a draft standard
revised, in favour of a multi-stakeholder process that delivers a mutually
"The Development of an Australian
Forestry Standard: An Environmental NGO Perspective" (Preliminary
Submission to The Ministerial Council Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture),
please go to:
"Hearing The Message And Recognising The Signals:
The Engo Perspective On Forest Product Certification",
National Forest Summit Statements on Independent, Third Party Forest Product Certification
Australian Conservation Groups' Position Statement On Independent Certification Endorsed By The National Forest Summit, May 5-7, 2000
In 1999, the Federal
Minister for Forestry in Australia, Wilson Tuckey,travelled to Europe and the
United States to promote a new forest certification program which would operate
under government control and without any non-government organisation (NGO)input.
It is a concerted attempt to undermine non-government schemes, in particular the
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is currently the world's most
universally recognised independent certification system.
The FSC was founded
in Toronto, Canada, in 1993. Its objective is to promote improved environmental,
social and economic management of forests worldwide. The FSC established an
independent label based on clearly agreed and measurable environmental standards
via ten internationally binding Principles and Criteria (1).
While the FSC is not
without its failings in some areas, it is nevertheless the most significant
independent certification scheme in the world (2). It has now certified 18
million hectares of forest worldwide and is supported by the International Union
for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth (FoE),
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the World Bank.
many conservation organisations support the FSC because of its contribution to
improving environmental standards. In addition, FSC principles demand that all
stakeholders, including conservation NGOs and Indigenous/Aboriginal people,
determine what forests should be protected and not compromised, and how forests
should be managed. The FSC has endorsed national contact persons and national
working groups in 16 countries creating a global FSC network including Brazil,
Germany, the US and the UK. A growing number of consumers of timber are changing
their buying habits and have switched to FSC certified timber.
British Railtrack has decided to cancel a 100-year contract (worth over $4
million a year) and agreed not to buy any West Australian timber because it
doesnt carry an FSC label. Despite intense pressure from the timber industry,
British Railtrack is standing firm because it believes an FSC label carries
greater environmental credibility than government or industry assurances about
the ecological sustainability of current logging.
logging industry is greatly concerned at the environmental gains that have been
achieved as a result of the FSCs entrance into the international market and
growing demand for certified wood. To meet these industry concerns, the
Australian government is playing a key role in trying to convince other
countries that governments know best, whilst overlooking the communitys
concerns. Consequently, Government and industry are promoting their own business
as usual approach and ignoring the concerns of other stakeholders. We oppose
this push to present the Regional Forest Agreements which underpin clearfelling
and woodchipping of native forests as worlds best practice.
As there is no
independent certification scheme in Australia, conservation groups have decided
to develop a common position regarding independent certification, and to develop
a nationally consistent set of management principles. Until this process has
been completed, the National Forest Summit warns all buyers groups, retailers
and consumers not to accept the environmental claims made by any certification
schemes that have not been endorsed by the National Forest Summit (3).
FOREST SUMMIT COMMUNIQUE
The 17th National
Forest Summit, representing environment groups from all forested States, met in
Canberra 3-5th November 2000...
Subsequent to its
May 2000 statement regarding independent third party forest product
certification, the National Forest Summit has agreed to develop a national
standard for plantation certification.
This follows from
the Summits previous statements opposing the clearing of native forests and
woodlands for plantation establishment and supporting the maximum commercially
feasible use of existing plantations - under ESD principles - to take the
pressure off native forests.
The Summit is now
developing ecologically sustainable guidelines for the establishment and
management of plantations and is considering the circumstances under which
certification would be appropriate.
This approach to
developing a broad-based community process will stand in stark contrast to the
Federal Governments industry-driven Australian Forestry Standard, which is being
developed behind closed doors and excludes conservation and other community
FOREST SUMMIT COMMUNIQUE
representatives from more than 35 environmental groups working on
forests met in
Hepburn Springs April 27-29th.
Forestry Standard was rejected by Summit participants as
a government process
designed to deliver business as usual to the forest
The National Forest
Summit calls on the Australian Forestry Standard
Committee to acknowledge the requirements of ENGO
proceeding with the development of a national standard for
certification. It should drop the impractical "one size fits all"
incorporating native forest logging and plantation forestry,
which is both
impractical and unworkable.
Following up on its
previous commitment to develop a standard for
party certification of plantation management in
Australia, the NFS
has agreed to investigate participating in a Forest
-type process for plantation and agroforest
Principle Framework Agreement On Plantation Certification
Endorsed By The
National Forest Summt.
The NFS agrees in
principle to investigate an FSC-type certification process
for plantations and
The NFS agrees to
develop a co-ordinating committee which will form
groups to assist its participation in the certification
The working groups
* Develop this
document with the intention of sending it out for peer
* Develop an agreed
definition of terms.
* Develop guidelines
for a consultative process which enables an effective
ENGO sectoral participation within an FSC-type National
agreed goals, hopes and expectations of the process are to:
* Improve the
environmental, social and economic performance of industrial
development of the farm forestry sector;
* Explore a process
to further differentiate "environmentally preferred"
products in the
principles of management planning to ecological restoration
sustainability across the landscape to address environmental
* Reduce the
pressures on native forests by supporting the goals of the
Summit namely: ending woodchipping of native forests and
conservation value forests whilst supporting the maximum
feasible use of existing plantations - under ESD principles;
* End clearing of
* Foster increased
levels of community participation in landscape mapping
and planning, with
all stakeholders able to participate on an equitable
* Ensure plantation
management contributes to the social, cultural and
wellbeing of the community, especially local and
communities and in particular traditional owners;
* Operate under the
principles of the Earth Charter [See
* To have open
access to all relevant information and data, including from
Forest Alliance, Leuwin Conservation Group, Conservation Council of Western
Australia, Conservation Council of South Australia, Environment Victoria, Wombat
Forest Society, Friends of the Earth, Australian Conservation Foundation, Native
Forest Network, The Wilderness Society, Nature Conservation Council of NSW,
North Coast Environment Council, Tasmanian Conservation Trust, Tasmanian
Cleanwater Network, Otway Ranges Environment Network, Forest Action Network,
Queensland Conservation Council, Forest Farmers' Association of Queensland, ENGO
Forest Certification Core Group New Zealand, Pick Apene and Cherry Tree
Greens Victoria, Cobaw and Wombat Forest Action Group,
Alliance, Forest Rescue, South West Environmental Action
Residents of East Gippsland, Rusden Environmnetal Network,
Doctors for Native
Forest, BORAL Green Shareholders, Students and
North East Forest Alliance, Goongerah Environment Centre,
Lawyers for the
Forest, Victorian National Parks Association, Gondwana
West Victorian Forest Protection Network, Japan Tropical
Forest Action Network, Tarkine National Forest Coalition