A scathing investigation report released by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) details systematic illegal timber sourcing by one of Europe’s largest timber processors, the Austrian firm Holzindustrie Schweighofer. FSC’s 110-page report, produced by a panel of experts over nearly one year, states that Schweighofer “developed a culture” that incentivized illegal timber sourcing by putting cheap wood above legality in their sourcing of logs in Romania. FSC’s Board of Directors refused to accept the panel’s recommendation that Schweighofer lose its FSC status, instead putting the company on a three-month probation which allows products to continue to be sold under the FSC label.

The FSC’s comprehensive investigation responded to a complaint by the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) Germany, based largely on the findings published by EIA in the October 2015 report Stealing the Last Forests.

The FSC’s expert panel confirms the wealth of evidence of illegal timber sourcing levelled against Schweighofer by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), other NGOs, investigative journalists, and the Romanian Government. On page 73 of the report, the FSC panel describes “clear and convincing evidence” that among other things, Schweighofer:• Purchased illegal timber;

• Has an inadequate due diligence system for assessing the legality of its timber purchases;
• Has “itself violated several laws and regulations” in its timber sourcing;
• Sourced timber from stolen forests;
• Continues to associate with “individuals and companies with criminal and corrupt backgrounds;
• Developed a bonus system that encourages illegal logging.The FSC panel recommended that Schweighofer be disassociated from the FSC, and further that the company “make appropriate environmental and social compensation for the damages it has caused to the Romanian forest and its people as a whole.” Despite these findings, the FSC today decided to ignore the panel’s recommendations.

The results of the independent investigation commission are clear: Schweighofer was involved in illegal wood trade and new film reports strongly suggest that the violations are currently ongoing," says Johannes Zahnen, of WWF Germany. "The fact that FSC does not dissociate itself from Holzindustrie Schweighofer, but still wants to work with the company, definitely does not meet our expectation. Today's decision by FSC is like an incentive for Schweighofer and other companies to use illegal business methods - without risk of losing the FSC logo, "says Zahnen.
“It is now unfortunately clear that the FSC logo is used to launder illegal wood,” said Alexander von Bismarck, Executive Director of EIA. “It is all the more shocking that the FSC comes to this conclusion itself, and yet allows it to continue.”

In April, 2015, EIA released an undercover video showing Schweighofer’s purchasing managers in Romania repeatedly accepting offers of illegal wood.

"Our forests are not a free-trade for irresponsible companies. The successful economic development of Romania, the well-being of the people there and the conservation of biodiversity are closely linked to the development and maintenance of forests in Romania. This fact alone should provide sufficient motivation to tackle illegal trafficking, "said Magor Csibi, Director of WWF Romania.

A new investigation conducted by EIA in September 2016, shows that Schweighofer continues to buy and sell illegal wood. In a series of short videos, EIA documents illegalities linked to trucks that investigators witnessed delivering logs to Schweighofer’s Romanian sawmills.

Schweighofer is selling its wood products to clients around the globe, including Japan, the United States and the European Union. “Now that the FSC has come to the same conclusion as EIA that Schweighofer’s products are filled with illegal wood, customers in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere must immediately stop buying from this company if they want to avoid breaking various laws around the world prohibiting the trade in stolen wood,” said Alexander von Bismarck, of EIA.
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