Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) - Issues with Victorias Native Forest Supply Chain

30 July 2012

The following entities are involved in the AFS certification of VicForests. This ultimately contributes to Australian Papers AFS Chain of Custody Certification, allowing their Reflex copy paper brand to carry a statement relating to the sustainable management of native forests.

AFS-Certification-process-VicForests-and-Australian-Paper

The following is a compendium of issues related to AFS Limited, SAI Global, JAS-ANZ,  PEFC and Australian Paper in relation to the awarding of  the AFS Sustainable Forest Management Standard (AS4708) and Chain of Custody Standard (AS4707) for the Victorian native forest fibre supply chain.

Joint Accreditation System of Australia & New Zealand (JAS-ANZ)

JAS-ANZ  is the government-appointed accreditation body for Australia and New Zealand responsible for providing accreditation of conformity assessment bodies (e.g. SAI Global ) who audit VicForests  against the AFS standard   in the fields of certification and inspection.

MyEnvironment Inc submitted a formal complaint about SAI Globals stakeholder engagement process to JAS-ANZ when SAI Global refused to meet  to discuss our concerns about alleged non compliances of their client VicForests operations under the AFS standard.  After 12 months, a formal investigation and recommendations by JAS-ANZ,  SAI Global re wrote its stakeholder complaints procedure but today still refuses to discuss the initial concerns. 

In February 2012 a position statement undersigned by by over a dozen environmental, non-government organisations representing over 100,000 Australians has been put to SAI Global but to date there has been no formal response.

In relation to our concerns JAS-ANZ has indicated that in its accreditation capacity, it only has limited powers to observe audits and determine if procedures are being followed.

We appealed JAS-ANZ initial response to matters raised and are waiting on a final response and path forward in August 2012.

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SAI Global

SAI Global  has VicForests  as one of its clients and issued them their current Australian Forestry Standard  (AFS) Certificate  which allows Australian Paper  makers of Reflex copy paper  (who have AFS chain of custody certification) to claim that Victorian native forest wood is coming from sustainable forestry.

MyEnvironment Inc have tried to meet with SAI Global to discuss concerns in relation to VicForests compliance with the AFS standard.  After two years SAI Global  are still refusing to meet to discuss our concerns  even after the accreditation body JAS-ANZ investigated their stakeholder engagement process and found them to be wanting.

Under the AFS standard if a single major non compliance is issued then certificates of compliance can not be awarded. 

In relation to unlawful over logging a recent URS treasury audit of VicForests made the following observations;

URS-K6.2-Finding-10-2

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Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) Limited

Australian Forestry Standard Limited  is a not-for-profit public company registered in July 2003. The company owns the standard development functions (they are approved by Standards Australia  to write their own standard) and manages the elements of the Australian Forest Certification Scheme

We wrote to the then CEO (Kayt Watts) of AFS Limited about  concerns in relation to VicForests and AFS certification.  After dozens of follow up calls and emails that were all unanswered we finally submitted a complaint to PEFC who investigated some nine (9) months later.  AFS Limited told PEFC that the CEO had spoken with us on the phone about our complaint yet we have never spoken on the phone to her. The result of the investigation was that AFS Limited reviewed their complaints procedure. Since that time we have not been contacted by AFS limited about our complaint.

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Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)

Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification  (PEFC) is the world's largest forest certification organization.  Unfortunately they have not held AFS Limited to account for non stakeholder engagement nor followed up with us on our complaints in relation to the legality of AFS.  Green Peace have written a report on other issues with PEFC around the word.

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VicForests (Native Forest Clearfell Logging Agency)

VicForests  is the Victorian State owned business responsible for clearfell  logging native forests.  They have a Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) certificate , issued by SAI Global .

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Nippon (Australian Paper) makers of Reflex Copy Paper

Nippon owned Australian Paper are the makers of Reflex copy paper and carry the Australian Forestry Standard - Chain of Custody  AS4707 certification issues by DNV . This allows them to make claims of sustainability on native forest products such as Reflex copy paper.  Since VicForests are the major supplier of native forest wood to Australian Paper, Australian Paper are reliant on VicForests certification to the AFS Sustainable Forest Management Standard AS4708 in order for them to keep their chain of custody standard for native forest fibre.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification was recently removed  from Reflex copy paper sourced from native forests after a five year battle by MyEnvironment and other environment groups with the  auditor Rain Forest Alliance, the conformity assessment body ASI, and standards development organisation Forest Stewardship Council  and Australian Paper. This further increases Australian Papers reliance on AFS certification.

During the entire stakeholder process we experienced one way communication with Australian Paper and based on a list of unanswered concerns and clear lack of meaningful engagement  MyEnvironment Inc were  no longer prepared to start any new stakeholder engagements with Australian Paper until all of these issues have been adequately addressed or Australian Paper demonstrate an immediate cessation to the procurement of high conservation value native forests. 

Australian Paper continue to accept wood from high conservation native forest under the AFS certification of  VicForests, and these are the same forests which were unable to be logged (deemed low risk) under the FSC scheme.

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