– does not believe company can regain forest stewardship certificate
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is no longer working with Barama Company Limited (BCL) on re-gaining certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the head of WWF’s local office says that he does not believe that the forestry company can recapture that distinction.
“There are too many issues and it doesn’t look like that will happen,” said Dr Patrick Williams, WWF’s country manager. He stated that Barama does not have the managerial or technical capabilities and the company does not seem to be making a serious attempt to deal with the issues. He pointed out that WWF had “disconnected” from Barama a while ago.
No one from the forestry company could be reached for comment on Friday and this newspaper was told that Chief Executive Officer of the company, Peter Ho, was out of the country while Forest Planning Manager Neil Chand had already left the office and would not be returning for the day. It has been two years since the FSC certification was suspended by SGS-Qualifor (SGS), an independent FSC-accredited certification body. Barama had been awarded the certification in February 2006 for 570,000 hectares of its forests in west central Guyana by SGS − only a portion of its vast concession. It had been suspended on January 2007 following an audit, for failing to maintain the standards in forest management which it had previously reached.
Asked for an update of the re-certification status on Thursday, Dr Williams told Stabroek News that the WWF was disappointed at the way the issue turned out because the organization had put a lot of resources into assisting the company. “Since Barama we have reviewed our position in terms of the support we give to private enterprises,” he stated, adding that the rules were a bit more stringent now. The WWF had provided financial and technical support to Barama in the process leading up to its successful certification.
He noted that Barama may well be gradually working on the issues but he was not aware that much had happened. He pointed out that the company would have to go through the entire process again, noting that it was a long one and involved a lot of financial and technical resources. The WWF country manager said that he did not expect to see the company regain certification in the foreseeable future. Currently, Iwokrama is the only local organisation that is FSC certified.
Back in September 2007, Barama’s then Chairman Girwar Lalaram, had said that the company was expecting to have an audit done of its operations in a bid to regain certification. The company had hired a consultant to perform a pre-audit exercise to make sure it was in order for the FSC audit. Lalaram left the company in May last year.
Around that time too, concerns had been raised regarding the effect a corruption debacle involving the company would have had on the re-certification process. The company was made to pay the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) a fine of $96.4M for a number of breaches related to under-declaration and the falsifying of documentation with respect to product origin committed in third party concessions. One criterion for certification is the strict adherence to system procedures which include the tagging of logs and chain of custody requirements. WWF-Guianas staff had visited BCL’s forest concession in late February and early March 2007 to observe the company’s on-the-ground response to the suspension of its FSC certificate and corresponding corrective action requests issued by SGS Qualifor in January 2007. The visit was a follow up to a meeting between BCL, FSC and WWF held in Bonn, Germany in February 2007 to review the findings of the SGS-Qualifor and Accreditation Services International (ASI) audits that had led to the suspension, and the actions necessary on the part of BCL to secure the reinstatement of the FSC certificate. WWF in a press release in April 2007 had reiterated its call both to BCL and its parent company Samling, to make a high level commitment to responsible forestry according to the rigorous standards of the FSC.
The WWF visit included a limited survey of compartment 5 of the BCL concession, the Buck Hall sawmill and management centre, main field camp, logging crew camps, as well as three non-BCL concessions where BCL is currently conducting harvesting operations. The visit revealed that BCL did not practice reduced impact logging (RIL) on third party concessions. According to WWF, BCL said that the investment required to implement RIL on these concessions was difficult to justify given their lack of long-term tenure, since concession owners could terminate their supply contracts with BCL at any time.
The visit found that there had been a lack of consistent decision-making and exercise of authority by BCL managers who truly understood the details of FSC certification and cutting-edge, modern sustainable forest practices. WWF had said that high staff turnover in management, coupled with (cross-cultural challenges) had inhibited consistent application of BCL policies. This situation had also exacerbated a breakdown in dialogue with many key stakeholders, WWF had stated. The visiting team found that while some aspects concerning workers’ living conditions, health and sanitation were being improved, others were wanting.