International documentary on the effectiveness of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

The German-French TV channel ARTE broadcasted a critical 98-minutes documentary on the FSC label, with case studies from Africa, South America, Europe and Asia. The title is "FSC - Forest Stewardship Council: FSC: can an eco-label stop the forestry industry?" (German title: Die Ausbeutung der Urwälder. Kann ein Öko-Siegel die Forstindustrie stoppen?).The Centre supported the producers providing some technical advice. Centre research - in the context of our project in the Arkangelsk Taiga, Russia - plays a role at the end of the documentary. 

A slightly modified version of the documentary was broadcasted by the German programme ARD on 4 February 2019. 

FSC published a position statement and also wrote a letter to the programme director of SWR, the channel the authors of the documentary are affiliated with. Dr. Uwe Sayer, FSC Germany, complains about false and one-sided information that would be delivered by the documentary. 

FSC Letter to key-stakeholders
2019-01-16_Stakeholderbrief FSC IC SWR ([...]
PDF-Dokument [214.3 KB]

The programme director of SWR, Dr. Christoph Hauser, answered with a line-by-line response demonstrating that the criticism lacked any substance. 

FSC letter to Dr. Christoph Hauser, SWR
2019-01-26_Brief-SWR_Hauser (1).pdf
PDF-Dokument [301.0 KB]


Pierre Ibisch with the Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management has sent a letter to FSC including the statement: 

"FSC claims in its statement that independent research has confirmed positive ecological effects of the label and quotes some publications. However, there is practically none of them that demonstrates the advantages of certification in a transparent, robust methodology through systematic, empirical studies. There are even literature studies among them, which do not come to a clear result at all, although they are quoted now in such a way - this throws a bad light on FSC. There are quite a few plausible findings from individual countries. It is shocking, however, that after 25 years and although there is so much at stake, there are no comprehensive studies that prove the supposed positive effects of FSC on a factual basis. The system is strongly based on assumed effectiveness and expert assessments as well as on the corresponding beliefs of relevant actors such as environmental associations. (...)

I hereby ask the FSC to clearly communicate to the scientific community what it will do in the future in order to promote studies on the technical adequacy of the various national standards and on the effectiveness in the implementation of certification, and not only to incorporate the results into its own work, but also to present them neutrally in its own media.

My suggestions:

1. disclosure and easy access to all relevant and regularly updated geodata concerning certified areas worldwide (polygons, not point coordinates; also relevant information such as certification data etc.)

2. neutral listing on the FSC website of all publications (with hyperlinks) dealing scientifically with FSC certification and its effectiveness (including Blumröder et al. 2018, Nikolaeva et al. 2019).

3. setting up a fund to finance scientific work for the purpose of independent verification of the ecological effectiveness of FSCs, which is not managed/directed by FSCs (possibly by a group of environmental associations that are not members of FSCs).


I look forward to your response and a constructive dialogue in the future.


Prof. Dr. Pierre Ibisch"