If you are looking for EIA UK, it's overhere.

PEFC Dismisses Romanian Government Findings, Clears Austrian Company Despite Documented Illegalities

The certification body PEFC has closed its complaint against Holzindustrie Schweighofer (Schweighofer), despite an investigation by the Romanian Ministry of the Environment, Water and Forests that concluded the company has been involved in various illegal activities. The Romanian government report was handed over to the national prosecutor in July 2015.

Alexander von Bismarck, Executive Director at EIA, said, “We are very concerned that PEFC has actively dismissed the public findings of the Romanian Ministry of the Environment, Water and Forests, which found illegal wood, faked documents and other illegalities at Schweighofer Romania. The government’s findings confirmed EIA’s own investigations which had revealed that Schweighofer not only accepted, but actively encouraged illegal harvesting.”

PEFC had launched a complaint and requested an additional audit by certifier Holzforschung Austria after the Romanian Ministry reported its findings. It was the second special audit by this certifier within just a few months; another audit – with the same results – had been carried out after EIA released an undercover video in April 2015, showing top Schweighofer managers accepting offers of illegal wood.

At the same time Holzforschung Austria found no violations, government investigators found that Schweighofer’s Sebeș mill alone had processed over 160,000 m3 of illegal timber.

PEFC’s due diligence system is, according to its own documentation, “based on information provided by the supplier.” The risk of illegality may be deemed “negligible” if the supplier provides “documents or other reliable information indicating compliance,” but these documents are not further specified. PEFC’s standard further states that illegal or reasonably suspected illegal wood “shall not be placed on the market unless* … the timber supplied [is] classified as presenting “negligible risk."

Von Bismarck added, “According to PEFC, placing illegal timber on the market is permissible as long as the supplier provides some sort of paperwork. The falsified paperwork that the Romanian Ministry found at Schweighofer’s mill demonstrates the weakness of PEFC’s paper-based system.”

On-site checks on the supplier side can be required if the timber is classified as coming from a high risk area, but there is no way of knowing if these have been conducted by the certifier, since information about the audits is confidential. An inquiry by EIA to obtain respective certification reports from Holzforschung Austria was declined in August, shortly before PEFC published its complaint.

PEFC also rejected a complaint about potential conflict of interest of the certifier because of close personal ties with Schweighofer, submitted by a Romanian NGO. Georg Erlacher, a high level manager at Schweighofer, started his career with the company in the 1990s. As the Austrian economic daily Wirtschaftsblatt reported in June of this year, Erlacher sat on the board of certifier Holzforschung Austria at the time Schweighofer received its PEFC certificate in 2014.

EIA's investigation into Schweighofer’s purchases of illegal timber is ongoing and EIA will release further information as soon as the investigation has concluded. EIA’s video footage remains clear and is publically available. For more than a decade, many Romanian NGOs and journalists have documented Schweighofer’s purchases of illegal timber. Earlier this year, a Romanian activist was beaten and pepper sprayed by Schweighofer’s guards as he filmed a shipment of illegal timber enter the company’s gates.

“We hope that PEFC will explain why it is uninterested in improving and at least continuing its investigation if it wishes to keep illegal wood from entering the supply chains it certifies,” said von Bismarck.

*Emphasis has been added.

View all Blog Posts

Recent Blog Posts

Perú: Juzgado podría anular resolución que benefició a Tamshi SAC tras deforestar sin autorización
Un juez está evaluando anular una cuestionada resolución del Ministerio de Desarrollo Agrario y Riego del Perú (MIDAGRI) que intentó regularizar la deforestación no autorizada de 2,196.44 hectáreas de bosque natural Amazónico realizada por la empresa Tamshi SAC entre los años 2013 y 2016.
While the coronavirus pandemic rages on, ravaging Zambia’s economy and crippling its citizens' lives, new findings by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) show that illegal exploitation and trade in mukula (Pterocarpus tinctorius) persists unabated, benefitting a small number of well-connected and wealthy individuals. A probing undercover investigation into illegal mukula logging and trade sheds light on the apparent theft of more than 10,000 trees and unveils information connecting the Zambia Agency For Persons With Disabilities (ZAPD), the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Ministry of Tourism and Arts, and the office of the vice president. Nearly two years after EIA’s exposé on the institutional looting of Zambian forests, it appears that the more things have changed with the pandemic, when it comes to mukula, the more they’ve stayed the same.

Recent Reports

How U.S. Imports of Agricultural Commodities Contribute to Deforestation and Why it Matters
A significant proportion of agricultural commodities produced on illegally deforested land enter global supply chains, exposing major markets such as the U.S. to environmental and human rights abuses, corruption, and organized crime through imports of raw materials and related manufactured goods, while undercutting companies trying to source legally and responsibly.
The Lie Behind the Ply
In an unprecedented investigation that connects threatened forests of Solomon Islands, China’s timber manufacturing hubs, and European importers, our new report The Lie Behind the Ply reveals how European consumers of tropical plywood have been the unwitting drivers of forest degradation. Our findings show that European companies appear to have imported thousands of tons of tropical-faced plywood, at high risk of containing illegal wood and in apparent violation of European law.

Recent Press Releases

US Company Pleads Guilty to Importing Illegal Timber from Peru
A United States timber importer, Global Plywood and Lumber Trading LLC, has pleaded guilty to importing illegal timber from Peru in violation of the US Lacey Act, which prohibits trade of illegal timber products into the country. A six-year investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of Justice, proved that at least 92% of the Global Plywood timber in this shipment had been illegally logged in the Amazon rainforest
Empresa norteamericana se declara culpable de importar madera ilegal del Perú
Este mes, un importador de madera de los Estados Unidos, Global Plywood and Lumber Trading LLC, se declaró culpable de importar madera ilegal del Perú en violación de la Ley Lacey de los Estados Unidos, que prohíbe el comercio de productos madereros ilegales en dicho país. Una investigación de seis años llevada a cabo por las autoridades del gobierno norteamericano Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection y el Departamento de Justicia, demostró que al menos el 92% de la madera de Global Plywood en este envío había sido talada ilegalmente en la selva amazónica.
Follow us @eiaenvironment on twitter for the latest updates!