Holzindustrie Schweighofer’s FSC Certificate Suspended
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) today announced that the FSC chain of custody (CoC) certificate issued to Austrian-based timber company Holzindustrie Schweighofer (Schweighofer) has been suspended. This action by Quality Austria, the certifying body that had granted Schweighofer’s FSC CoC certificate, means Schweighofer can no longer market its wood products with the FSC logo. Schweighofer is the largest wood processor in Romania, with annual profits approaching €100 million in recent years.
Quality Austria was itself barred from issuing new FSC certificates earlier this month by Accreditation Services International (ASI), the organization responsible for overseeing certification bodies for the FSC. ASI’s decision followed a formal complaint by WWF Austria, charging that Schweighofer had not fulfilled the FSC’s requirements, in light of recent and significant evidence that the company had been processing illegally harvested timber.
“Schweighofer can no longer hide behind a flawed certificate in the face of the glaring evidence of its illegal activities, said Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) Eurasia Programs Coordinator David Gehl. “By accepting and incentivizing large amounts of illegal timber, the company has been instrumental in the destruction of Europe’s last ancient intact forests.”
According to the FSC, the auditing process of Quality Austria was “not suited to assess non-compliances by Holzindustrie Schweighofer.” These “non-compliances” could refer to the growing evidence from media, NGO, and government reports of Schweighofer’s extensive sourcing of illegal timber in Romania. An undercover video released by EIA in April 2015 showed Schweighofer’s top sourcing officials accepting offers of illegal timber. The Austrian official in the video, a man in charge of Schweighofer’s Romanian sourcing since the company arrived in Romania in 2002, has since been fired. A Romanian government investigation in May 2015 found documentation of over 100,000 cubic meters of stolen logs in just one of Schweighofer’s mills.
The suspension of the company’s FSC CoC certificate is separate from an ongoing investigation into Schweighofer by the FSC for violations of the FSC’s Policy of Association, which is set to conclude in September 2016. If FSC’s investigation confirms that Schweighofer has been involved in illegal activities in Romania, Schweighofer could be disassociated from the FSC, including the termination of all its certificates.
“The time has come for Schweighofer to finally act to remove illegal timber from its Romanian supply chains,” said Gehl. “Schweighofer’s customers in Europe and around the world must immediately cancel their contracts until the company accepts full transparency by releasing detailed information about the forest concessions where each of their logs comes from.”