hopping malls are some of the best places in which to save the world's forests. It's often hard to protect them on the ground, especially in developing countries where money is scarce. But if people insist on buying wood - from pencils to furniture, from building materials to barbecue charcoal - from forests that are sustainably managed instead of being ruthlessly cut down, the increasing demand for timber can be turned into a force to conserve forests rather than destroy them.
But how to tell the difference? After all, the wood looks the same. That's where the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) comes in. It sets standards for environmentally friendly wood, and slaps labels on it to let consumers know.
Arising from a meeting in Toronto in 1993 of 130 professional foresters, indigenous forest dwellers, environmental organizations like Greenpeace and WWF, and big retailers like Sweden's IKEA and the United Kingdom's home improvement chain B&Q, the FSC set out to benefit people as well as trees. So its principles and criteria are designed to 'promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world's forests'.
The FSC protects natural, diverse 'old-growth' forests and only approves wood that has been legally logged. And, as it realized that protecting forests involves looking after the local people, its standards also respect the rights of ownership, workers and indigenous people.
The FSC does not actually certify approved wood itself, but encourages other organizations to do this by carrying out inspections and conferring approval. That keeps it at arm's length from producers - who can be decertified if standards slip. The wood is then followed all the way to the finished product, so that any item with the FSC logo can be tracked back to any point in its production.
By the end of the FSC's first 10 years, almost half a million square kilometres of forest (an area the size of Spain) had been certified across 62 countries. More and more retailers - including Asda (a division of Wal-mart in the United Kingdom), Castorama in Italy, Migros in Switzerland and Home Depot in the United States of America - sell FSC-certified wood and wood products. Such retailers form buyers' groups committed to stocking only independently certified timber and timber products, putting pressure on suppliers to achieve certification. Consumer demand is growing too, as people learn about it. The production of FSC-standard paper in Europe, for example, quadrupled in 2003.
Most of the certification, however, has been of products from temperate forests in Europe and North America, rather than the often far more vulnerable tropical regions. Only a fraction of the 7 million square kilometres of the Amazon, for example, has been certified to FSC standards. And there are only two approved forests in tropical Africa, one - in the Congo - very recently. But the FSC is increasingly turning its attention in this direction.
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|Editorial||Treasure trees||Supporting the sky||TUNZA answers
|Tunza fun||Forest heroes|
|Truly wild 1||Debt for forests||Nothing new under
|Endangered forests||Give as well as take||Gorilla war|
|Truly wild 2||Money does grow
|Win-win||Trees in the
|Championing the Earth||Tell the difference|
|Nutty solution||Truly wild 3||Seven forest wonders|
|About Tunza||Contents||Edition française||Versión española|