In November 2015, WWF Germany submitted a Policy for Association complaint against Holzindustrie Schweighofer (HS), alleging that the company is involved in the purchasing and trading of illegally harvested timber in Romania resulting in a negative impact on the country’s natural protected areas. In accordance with FSC procedure, a complaints panel was established to thoroughly investigate the allegations, resulting in the FSC Board of Directors deciding to place HS on probation.
Upon receiving additional allegations against the company, a second investigation was deemed necessary and the FSC Board of Directors ultimately disassociated from Holzindustrie Schweighofer.
Holzindustrie Schweighofer expressed their interest in ending their disassociation from FSC, and a Stakeholder Working Group was established to craft a Conditions Framework outlining strict requirements for HS to comply with in order to end disassociation from FSC. To learn more about this process and the final Conditions Framework, read below.
Soil Association Certification Limited (SA Cert) will run a stakeholder engagement process in 2021 as part of the independent verification, including a six weeks stakeholder consultation.
Stakeholder comments and feedback are welcome and encouraged!
Please feel free to submit your feedback in relation to the HS Group (former Schweighofer Group) and the FSC verification process to SA Cert, by contacting Janette McKay at ForestryConsultation@soilassociation.org
FSC initiates third party independent verification of HS Group’s (former Schweighofer Group’s) compliance with the FSC Conditions Framework.
The objective of this independent verification is to evaluate whether the measures and actions implemented by HS have led to the successful compliance with the requirements stipulated by FSC in the FSC Conditions Framework.
Soil Association Certification Limited (SA Cert) has been appointed as the independent third-party verifier for this process.
The independent verification will combine desk assessment analysis, field verification, as well as a stakeholder consultation process.
The FSC Board of Directors approves the FSC Conditions Framework. The FSC Board of Directors mandates revisions to be made to sub conditions 4c and 4d following consultation with experts in Romania.
Please see the FSC Conditions Framework submitted to the Board in December 2017 here.
The results of the second Policy for Association investigation are presented to the FSC Board of Directors. The Board decides that no further requirements need to be added to the FSC Conditions Framework.
Second Policy for Association investigation is finalized by the investigation team.
The Stakeholder Working Group presents FSC with its proposed final draft of the FSC Conditions Framework.
FSC second Stakeholder Working Group meeting for the revision of the FSC Conditions Framework (consultation draft).
FSC enters into a dialogue with the Schweighofer Group in view of developing a roadmap towards ending the disassociation. For more information please see here.
Initiation of the Policy for Association investigation of the additional information presented to FSC International. For more information see here.
FSC Board of Directors decides to disassociate from the Schweighofer Group, and establishes a set of conditions that Schweighofer shall fulfill in order to end the disassociation. For more information about the rationale on the decision see here.
FSC decides to place the Schweighofer Group on ‘probation’ for possible disassociation until the FSC BoD meeting in February 2017.
For details on the rationale for this decision see here.
For details about the conditions that needed to be fulfilled by the Schweighofer Group in order to remain associated with FSC see here.
Submission of the complaints panel evaluation report with a recommendation to the FSC Board of Directors.
Establishment of a complaints panel and investigation begins.
WWF Germany files a complaint with FSC International against Holzindustrie Schweighofer. FSC accepts the complaint.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Case
What conditions must the Schweighofer Group meet in order for FSC to consider ending the disassociation?
Following FSC Conditions Framework HS must now begin to implement measures to correct identified shortcomings and wrongdoings in its operations while compensating for the environmental and social damages and preventing the reoccurrence of any wrongdoings and/or violations of FSC’s Policy for Association.
These conditions described in the FSC Conditions Framework require HS to make significant improvements in its operations by:
- Strengthening its Due Diligence and Chain of Custody Systems by implementing a robust system for the traceability of the round wood back to the forest stand;
- Setting up and contributing to a fund for the development of social and environmental projects promoting responsible development of forests and forest based communities in Romania;
- Upgrading its corporate social responsibility practices and stakeholder engagement efforts;
- Conducting an independent review of all land in its possession and compensating the lawful land owners and returning the land when legally required;
- Increasing transparency and communication with relevant stakeholders regarding its operations and ongoing projects;
- Compensating FSC for the costs incurred in relation to the PfA investigation;
These conditions have been developed in a multi-stakeholder process involving public consultations and describe a series of stringent requirements that HS must fulfill for FSC to consider an end to disassociation in the future.
Who covers the costs of the investigation and roadmap process?
FSC ensures the impartiality of complaint panel investigations and for this reason FSC contracts directly third parties acting as complaint panel members for Policy for Association investigations and absorbs the costs and fees of their consultancy services. This approach was strictly followed in the Schweighofer case as well.
When disassociated companies initiate a dialogue process with FSC in the form of a roadmap process, FSC aims for these disassociated companies to improve their operations and remedy and correct any issues of their past actions.
FSC set a Conditions Framework detailing all the corrective actions, system improvements and remedy and compensation actions that the Schweighofer Group need to put in place satisfactorily, for the FSC Board to reconsider the company’s disassociated status.
The Conditions Framework were developed through a chamber balanced stakeholder engagement process involving the relevant stakeholders in Romania. FSC requires Schweighofer group to upgrade its timber sourcing policies, improve its traceability and due diligence systems, to conduct legal analysis and review, and to provide social and environmental remedy.
In addition, in condition 7 of this same framework, FSC requires the company to reimburse FSC for the costs incurred by FSC in the investigation of the complaint and the associated work. This is a standard requirement applicable in all roadmap processes.
In the spirit of transparency, which is the foundation of FSC as an organization, FSC provides all stakeholders with open information with regards to these reimbursement of costs for this process, as provided in the below table.
Table 1. Schweighofer Group’s reimbursement of costs to FSC
External costs incurred by FSC in connection with the work conducted in 2016 in the context of the complaints panel evaluation of the Policy for Association complaint.
External costs incurred by FSC in connection with the work conducted in 2017 as part of the new Policy for Association investigation.
No costs have been charged
External costs that incurred by FSC during the stakeholder consultation process in 2017.
Costs incurred by FSC in connection with the independent verification process in 2021
No costs have been charged yet