Markets force Romania and Bulgaria to catch up on forest certification



Posted on 24 September 2010  | 
FSC Friday, the international day of sustainable forestry, is being marked in Bulgaria and Romania in the hope that increased forest certification will lead to more market opportunities for the timber industry and improved forest management. Romania aims to certify 40% of its forested areas by the end of 2011, while Bulgaria hopes to reach the 30% milestone in 2014.

“The interest in FSC certification is on the increase in Romania”, says Marius Turtica, Forest Certification Officer at the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme based in Brasov, Romania. “Our aim is to have around 40 FSC certified companies by the end of this year, and to reach 2,6 million hectares of FSC certified forests, out of a total of 6,27 million hectares, by the end of 2011.”

The companies that have already been certified are those that export their products to countries like the UK, Italy, Germany and France. Consumers in Western Europe are much more sensitive to environmental impact and forest management issues, and timber producers in Eastern Europe are gradually waking up to the fact that they must get certified or lose out.

"The competition on the venner market is quite fierce and each and every plus can make the difference between success and failure", says Claudiu Tanase, Quality and FSC Manager of Losan Romania, a leading manufacturer of decorative veneers, selling their products worldwide. 

“If a European client is demanding an FSC certificate, timber companies are very motivated to get certified”, says Neli Dontcheva who runs the Forestry Certification Information Centre in Sofia. “At the information centre we often get requests from people who have no idea what FSC is, but know that they must get certified or get dropped by their clients”.

“The problem we face in Bulgaria is purely economical”, Dontcheva explains. “Both the state – the biggest proprietor of forests in the country – and private owners want to go down this way, but lack of financial resources is stopping them”.

The Forestry Certification Information Centre was established in 2005 as part of WWF's Sofia office with the purpose of offering integrated information about the forest certification process and its practicalities. Various stakeholders in Bulgaria have benefited from its services over the years, and as a result 217,387 ha of forests have been FSC certified, out of a total of 4,130 000 ha. But the process hasn’t been as fast as in other European countries.

During the construction boom, which marked the past few years in Bulgaria, the domestic market was big enough to accommodate most if not all locally produced wood. As a result there was no rush to change. However, at the moment the demand for wood domestically is small and Bulgarians are starting to look to external markets where export is so much harder if the wood is not certified.

“During the last decade forest certification has become a significant market mechanism to promote responsible forest management”, says Zhivko Bogdanov, Forest Coordinator at the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme. “WWF has focused on promoting FSC and helping countries like Bulgaria and Romania adapt FSC standards to their national contexts”, Bogdanov said.

The next step for Bulgaria and Romania is to finalize their national standards and to submit them to the Forest Stewardship Council for approval. Although the authorities in the two countries are very supportive of FSC certification, bringing together stakeholders with different backgrounds from different parts of the country is a challenge. Currently the two countries are using the generic FSC standards. The national standards, which could be ready by the end of the year, are expected to be even more rigid.

“The Bulgarian standard for example will forbid clear cutting, since this is stipulated in our national law”, Bogdanov says. “This is also how nature works around here. At these latitudes we don’t get natural clearing of vast areas simultaneously, which can be the case in Northern Europe. When we follow natural processes, we invest less and at the same time have less impact on nature. This is the idea of FSC.”

"It’s definitely a matter of prestige for a forestry management team to show that they can obtain an FSC certificate", says Georgy Lapchev, Deputy Director of State Forestry “Kosti” in south-east Bulgariaq which in 2005 became the first Bulgarian forestry to receive FSC certification. "At Kosti we always believed that we were managing the forests the right way, therefore the consistently good results. We went through the certification process mainly to make sure that we were managing the forests well in every single aspect".

FSC promotes environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world's forests, by establishing a worldwide standard of recognized and respected principles of forest stewardship. Today, more than 125 million ha of forest worldwide are certified to FSC standards, distributed in over 80 countries. This represents the equivalent of roughly 5% of the world’s productive forests.

Croatia currently has more FSC certified forests than any other nation in Eastern Europe with 94% of total forest area certified. Poland is quickly following suit with 76%.

The value of FSC labeled sales is currently estimated at over 20 billion USD worldwide. Companies committed to using FSC include home-improvement companies, publishers and retailers. Giants like IKEA, B&Q and Home Depot already support FSC.

WWF and FSC

Responsibly managed forests are necessary for the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystems services, both on individual sites and within the wider landscape. WWF sees credible forest certification as a tool to:
  • Promote socially, environmentally and economically responsible forest management;
  • Safeguard biological diversity in managed forests including High Conservation Value Forests;
  • Respect the ownership and use rights of local communities and indigenous peoples;
  • Provide a forum for dialogue between different stakeholders and establish frameworks for resolution of social conflict over the use of forest resources;
  • Ensure transparency of both forest management and the forest products trade; and
  • Provide a market mechanism allowing companies and consumers to identify and purchase timber and non-timber forest products from well-managed forests.
Today there is a proliferation of certification schemes around the world. However, these vary widely in their standards, consistency, transparency, means of verification and in the degree to which governance is open to different stakeholders. The Forest Stewardship Council certification best meets WWF’s key requirements. Thus, while WWF acknowledges that several schemes may contribute to improve forest management, the organization will continue to focus its active efforts on improving the FSC system, on adapting FSC certification to different scales and national contexts, and on promoting the FSC logo as an internationally recognized hallmark of responsible forest management.

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