Ratings body suspends green ticks after paper stoush
THE organisation that gives a green tick to some of the biggest timber and paper companies has voluntarily suspended most of its operations after a bruising stoush with environment groups over its approval of the paper brand Reflex.
THE organisation that gives a green tick to some of the biggest timber and paper companies has voluntarily suspended most of its operations after a bruising stoush with environment groups over its approval of the paper brand Reflex.SmartWood, a division of Rainforest Alliance, gave up its ability to issue chain-of-custody certifications following an investigation into its audit of Reflex manufacturer Australian Paper by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international governing body.In addition, SmartWood had also certified Tasmanian forestry group Gunns, plantation owners Hancock, tissue company Kimberly-Clark and Norwegian paper group Norske Skog, which supplies the bulk of newsprint used in Australia.The voluntary suspension was accepted by Accreditation Services International, which was auditing SmartWood on behalf of the forest council, on September 1, and remains in force until lifted by ASI."This is the first time in the development of FSC Australia that this has occurred," the forest council chief executive, Michael Spencer, said.He said the suspension showed the forest council system worked."Integrity is really paramount to the system. Businesses particularly need to know the rules are applied consistently."SmartWood's withdrawal means companies it audited will have to find a new auditor if they wish to remain within the forest council program when their certificates expire.ASI's investigation of SmartWood was triggered by environment groups that were unhappy it had continued to certify Australian Paper's use of timber logged from native forests by VicForests, the Victorian government's logging company.Green groups say native forests are classified "high conservation value" and cannot be logged for use in forest council-certified products.Australian Paper withdrew from the council system last month so it could continue using logs from VicForests, approved by Australian Forestry Standard, a rival accreditation system.The director of MyEnvironment, Sarah Rees, whose complaint helped spark the ASI inquiry, said the result showed the forest council "is capable of responding to environmental and community change".Wilderness Society forest campaigner Luke Chamberlain said, "By hitching their wagon to the unsustainable practices of VicForests and Australian Paper, Rainforest Alliance have taken themselves out in what is an international blight on forestry practices in Australia."SmartWood spokeswoman Anita Neville said the organisation would invest in auditor training and review its performance against Forest Stewardship Council standards with a view to "getting back to work in this area as soon as possible".