WWF files a complaint with FSC against Holzindustrie Schweighofer | WWF

WWF files a complaint with FSC against Holzindustrie Schweighofer

Posted on 09 December 2015    
The Carpathian Mountains are among the most important natural resources in Europe
© Kateryna Kurakina
Vienna -- WWF has filed a further complaint against the Austrian wood processing company Holzindustrie Schweighofer (Schweighofer) with the international sustainable forest management certification body FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). FSC will announce the results of its in-depth examination in spring 2016.

In October this year, WWF also filed a complaint against the company with the Federal Forest Office in Vienna for violations of the European Timber Regulation (EUTR) and called for a full investigation of the allegations against Schweighofer. The complaint followed investigative report by the US Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) that documents how Schweighofer processes large amounts of illegally harvested timber from Romanian forests into semi-finished wood products and biomass and then sells the products throughout the European Union. Schweighofer is one of the largest timber companies in Europe.

Meanwhile, Schweighofer has denied the allegations. "Currently, only 2% of the wood Schweighofer processes comes from its own FSC-certified forests. However, the FSC label can be withdrawn if the business practices of the timber company are found to be incompatible with the ecological and sustainability principles of FSC," said WWF Germany’s forest expert Johannes Zahnen.

The EIA report released in October followed 2 years of investigations. In the spring of 2015, EIA released an undercover video showing two of Schweighofer’s senior managers agreeing to purchase illegally cut wood and offering bonuses for it. In another video by the Romanian NGO Agent Green, a logging truck from a Romanian national park was filmed undercover as it transported undocumented logs to Schweighofer. The company claims that it rejects timber from National Parks.  

EIA’s report also finds that Schweighofer has caused significant damage to the furniture industry in Romania by pushing up prices and buying out timber stocks. According to former Romanian Minister of Environment, Doina Pana, this practice has cost the Romanian economy 50,000 jobs since Schweighofer settled in the country. Schweighofer extracts the profits from its Romanian businesses through a complex network of companies. At the head of this structure sits a private foundation (“Schweighofer Privatstiftung”) registered in Austria, through which the company enjoys significant tax benefits.

Schweighofer has its roots in an Austrian family business established more than 400 years ago. It has been in Romania since 2002 and has several sawmills and factories. Over the past 13 years, the company became one of the largest wood processors in Europe, with an annual turnover of 465 million Euros.

WWF is concerned over the company's impact on the last remaining virgin forests in the Carpathian Mountains. For years, WWF has been working in the region to preserve the largest continuous natural forests in Central Europe, which cover 218,000 hectares in Romania. This makes the Carpathians some of the most important natural resources on the European continent.

80 million cubic meters of wood worth €5 billion have been felled illegally in Romania in the last 20 years. This corresponds to approximately 50% of all logging. WWF is working intensively with the Romanian authorities to preserve the forests.

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