Sustainability award goes to FSC for protecting our forests

Complete dedication to improving and protecting forests around the world has earned the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) the prestigious Alcan Prize for Sustainability.

As a reward for its leading role in protecting the world’s forests and setting a good example of sustainable forest management, the FSC has received US $1 million in prize money as the first ever winner of the award.

“The FSC exemplifies an environmental and social NGO at the centre of an exceptional and innovative partnership among business, the public sector and civil society to raise business standards and have a practical impact on the pressing challenge of economic, environmental and social sustainability,” said Robert Davies, CEO of the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF).

Based on a set of standards rooted in global principles and criteria, the FSC promotes environmentally appropriate, socially responsible and economically viable management of forests.

FSC standards are implemented through a rigorous and credible forest certification system, recognised in the market through a distinctive trademark and label. These standards are endorsed and supported by environmental groups and industry alike.

Executive director of FSC, Heiko Liedeker said the award recognised the outstanding contribution made over more than a decade to realise the Rio Earth Summit’s vision, while proving that the ideals of sustainability could be implemented on the ground.

“Growing participation in the FSC system in recent years is demonstrating that this model is successful in bringing together diverse interests to create sustainable outcomes,” Mr Liedeker said. “This prize will assist the FSC transition to its second decade and maintain the momentum toward responsible management of the world’s forests.”

Following its tenth anniversary, the FSC has planned several key environmental and social projects for 2005 and beyond, spokeswoman for the organisation Zandra Martinez told edie.

The US $1 million would give the organisation a secure framework from which to deliver these plans, she said, which would include strengthening the effort to protect and restore tropical rainforests in the Southern Hemisphere, as well as implementing a social strategy to improve the circumstances of people that depend on forests for their homes and livelihood.

Governments, corporations and the timber industry internationally recognise FSC timber to be the “gold standard”, and rightly so, according to forest campaigner for Greenpeace Judy Rodrigues.

“The logging industry is putting ancient forest areas and the homes of indigenous people at risk all over the world,” Mr Rodrigues said. “The FSC deserves to be congratulated for setting up the only international certification system and label that gives a reliable reassurance to consumers that they’re buying products from well managed forests.”

Greenpeace proposed that some of the prize money could also be used by the FSC to step up efforts to identify controversial sources of wood or fibre, including illegal logging, unsustainable logging, threats to forests with high conservation values, GM trees and forests near areas of conflict.

“The FSC has set a positive precedence for the forest sector on how to effectively promote products from good management in a globalised market. Its standard is a model for promoting sustainable business practices that should be further developed in the forest sector and mirrored by industrial sectors worldwide,” Ms Rodrigues concluded.

Alcan partnered with the IBLF, which managed the application and selection process, in order to ensure the credibility and objectivity of the prize. It will be presented to the FSC in January 2005.

By Jane Kettle

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