Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)




  1. Mr Sauven, and your colleagues, I am sorry you are so far away. This is rather a large room, too large for this sort meeting but I am afraid there is such a call on committee rooms at the moment that we have had to use it. I do apologise for that. As long as we are audible to you and you are audible to us it does not matter. Before we begin and before I ask you to make any opening remarks you would like to make before we start questioning, could I just say a word about the legal situation. You would certainly know that Greenpeace have been given permission by the Court of Appeal to judicially review DEFRA and Customs' failure to detain a specific shipment of timber in January this year. I understand that the judicial review is to be heard later this month.


  (Mr Sauven) The end of May.

  2. While the discussion of questions awaiting adjudication in the civil courts is a matter for the discretion of the chair, under the sub judice resolution of the House of 15 November 2001, I am sure that neither our witnesses nor any of my colleagues would wish to prejudice proceedings in the courts. The court proceedings, however, relate to one particular incident which is only one of many incidents which we can discuss, so I think I would ask our witnesses and colleagues, when they are drawing on examples, to draw on other examples than the one in January to illustrate any particular points they want to make. The whole point of our discussion this afternoon is to discuss the broad issues concerning government procurement and illegal logging and so forth, not to go into one particular issue which is sub judice. Can I also say to Mr Sauven before he introduces his colleagues and says anything else he would like to, for the record all the wood used in the construction of Portcullis House is either English or American oak and was certified.
  (Mr Sauven) Brilliant.

  3. Is there anything you would like to do apart from introducing your colleagues?
  (Mr Sauven) I will make just a very brief opening statement to explain the context of what we are going to discuss today. First of all, I will introduce my colleagues. First on my left is Anna Jenkins, who is the UK Director of the Forest Stewardship Council. We have invited her to join us because she can talk particularly about issues of certification and definitions of sustainability and issues like that, which I know have come up a lot recently. On my right is Andy Tait who is one of Greenpeace's forest campaigners. On my far right is Kate Harrison who is our lawyer and has been working on the CITES case. With specific reference to CITES, we are not a specialist in the broader aspects of CITES so we can really only talk with authority on the particular issue of mahogany. We can do that and maybe take into account what is in the public domain in terms of what other countries have done on this issue of mahogany.

  4. We will ask you some questions about CITES. Just take it as far as your knowledge will go. There is no problem with that.
  (Mr Sauven) That is fine. I will spend a couple of minutes on the opening statement to give some context to Greenpeace's campaign. Greenpeace is primarily concerned with ancient or primary forests. If we look at primary or ancient forests today about 80 per cent of them have been destroyed or degraded and about 20 per cent remain in pristine condition. This applies north and south. This is not a tropical rainforest campaign although we accept that is where most of the world's biodiversity is found. We are equally concerned about the temperate rainforests, the boreal or other ancient forests in the northern or southern climates, for example those in Chile. One of the key things about ancient forests is that they maintain environmental systems which are essential for life on Earth. They also stabilise the climate by storing large amounts of carbon which would otherwise contribute to global warming. As a planetary issue they are of considerable importance to all of us. They are also the home to millions of people who depend upon them for their survival, including many indigenous cultures. The ancient forests house about two-thirds of the world's terrestrial biodiversity of plant and animal species. They are incredibly important. At a scientific meeting of the Convention of Biological Diversity in Canada last November the scientists made a statement where they said "the need to act urgently to prioritise biodiversity conservation efforts on the most endangered and environmentally significant forestry ecosystems and species, in particular primary (ancient forests) must be a priority for our work." If we look at some specific areas, for example the most famous forest in the world is probably the Amazon, it is a completely unique ecosystem. It contains roughly half of all the world's land-based biodiversity. It contains one fifth of the world's fresh water. One of the interesting things about the Amazon is that of all the rain that falls in the Amazon, which is quite a considerable amount, only 25 per cent of that rain ends up in the rivers. You can see why forests are so important when you look, for example, at Central America which was hit recently by floods. Here they have lost 70 to 80 per cent of their ancient forest cover. Honduras was almost literally washed away. Their economy was almost totally devastated by those floods. Politically at the Rio Earth Summit ten years ago nations signed two conventions, one on climate, the other on biodiversity. Since then an area of ancient forest much, much bigger than France and Spain has been destroyed. The rate of forest destruction in the 1990s was higher than it was in the 1980s and the curve of destruction is upwards. We risk losing, according to many well-known and famous scientists, about 50 per cent of land species by mid century including our closest relatives such as chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans if this rate of destruction continues. Although there are many causes of ancient forest destruction, logging represents the single most important threat. It is logging that is opening up those forests and allowing road building, or infrastructure or agriculture projects that follow in on their wake. What would we like to see governments do? We obviously want to see an end to this destruction and for governments to agree plans for forest conservation and sustainable use. We want the governments of the world to clean up the timber trade so that it is produced and traded in a legally and ecologically responsible way. We also want world governments to come up with financial aid. It is a given that some of the most bio-diverse habitats are in the world's poorest countries. We believe the planet's biodiversity and protection of global ecosystems like climate that are dependent on these forests is our responsibility. We must help pay for them and help find ways of using them sustainably. That is our opening statement.

  Chairman: Thank you, Mr Sauven. Let's start off on the broader issues. Mr Wright?

David Wright

  5. You have put together a very detailed introduction there in terms of a wide perspective on this issue. How long has Greenpeace been campaigning on this issue and where would you rank it in relation to other activities you currently undertake?
  (Mr Sauven) We have been campaigning on this issue for about 10 years and I would say that the two key environmental priorities for the world today are climate change and biodiversity. I think that was recognised at the Rio Earth Summit 10 years ago. These are two key issues that will no doubt come up on the agenda in Johannesburg in August as well.

  6. Could you give an impression of what progress has been made in that 10-year period? What impact have you had as an organisation?
  (Mr Sauven) I did say that the curve was going upwards, which is a problem, but I think that one of the things that we have seen is a change in the UK Government's rhetoric on this—which is extremely good. We cannot really fault it. The statements that Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, has made on government procurement are very good. The lead role that Tony Blair has taken in the G8 meetings in dealing with issues of illegal logging in the last few G8 summits has been very good. We have seen developments, for example the Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC) Scheme . We have seen many big companies participate in that and many household name companies—like B&Q to Home Depot in the US to IKEA in Scandinavia—who have exemplary records in this area. It is becoming increasingly higher up the agenda of companies and governments. What we would like to see, and discuss more here with you, is how to put, particularly from a government point of view, their extremely good statements, some of them very strong statements, into practice because obviously what we witnessed at the Cabinet Office was a total failure of government procurement policy being put into practice. This is one of the key things which is stopping progress being made because the government—these are rough figures—is responsible for something like 15 per cent of all timber procurement in this country. The public sector itself is responsible for something like 40 per cent. Overnight the government and public bodies could change the whole face of the timber industry in this country if they so wanted to. The United Kingdom itself is the third largest importer —
  (Ms Jenkins)—Joint third out of the G8.
  (Mr Sauven)—Joint third largest importer of tropical forest products in the world, so we are a very significant player and if these statements were put into action we could really change things. It is a long time coming, I know, but what we did see, for example, at the meeting at The Hague at the Convention of Biological Diversity that Michael Meacher attended (although that meeting was a failure in our eyes) was some very, very strong statements coming out of the EU. You saw big countries like Russia coming on board for the first time in alliance with the EU. You did see governments like France and Germany themselves stating that they were going to implement very strong procurement policies including support for Forest Stewardship Council certified timber. What you are beginning to see now is a much greater global awareness of the issues and you are beginning to see governments move. They are making strong statements now and we need to put them into action. You are seeing many powerful multi-national corporations also beginning to align themselves with this movement.

  7. In order to assist in this general discussion, and I am sure colleagues will touch further on some of those issues, can you give a definition you apply in terms of what is "sustainable" timber?
  (Ms Jenkins) First of all, I should say that FSC does not use the term sustainable. We use "well managed" or "responsibly managed". The reason we do not use the term sustainable is, with the best will in the world, you can try very hard to achieve sustainability now but it is only with hindsight and retrospect that you can tell whether you achieve that. We may be getting things wrong now which we really do not know about and our children will discover. How do we define well-managed, responsibly managed forest? We have 10 principles and 54 criteria.[1] I will not go them all but they look quite large. There are quite a lot there. It is a lot of writing. The principles cover indigenous rights, management planning, monitoring and assessment, plantations, high conservation value forests, those sort of issues. These are global principles and criteria and they are then applied more specifically on a national or regional basis depending on the size of the country or how varied the forestry is within that country. Within the United Kingdom there is an FSC UK standard. We are unusual here in that we also have something called the UK Woodland Assurance Standard which the FSC recognises as equivalent. That too can deliver an FSC standard in the UK. Standards are defined by the local people in the local areas when they think the time is right to define it. In lieu of a standard-setting process locally a certification body operating in that area with our accreditation will apply their own standards which meet the principles of the criteria and which are adapted to local conditions in consultation with local people. So there is no one single definition of the sustainable forestry. You have got ten principles and 54 criteria within it and then the detail has to be added at a local level because forests are so varied.

  (Mr Sauven) Just to be clear, there are three main elements to certification. One is development of a standard which is basically quality control. A second one is a certification system against those standards, which is basically a third party certifier, and then the third one is the process for accreditation of certifiers which is monitoring the certifiers itself.

  (Ms Jenkins) FSC's role is the accreditation body.
  (Mr Sauven) In terms of the definition of sustainability, one of the things that came out of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 was the definition "environmentally sound, economically viable and socially responsible", and we would apply that to forestry management. That would basically be what the FSC mission statement is.
  (Ms Jenkins) Our mission statement is to promote socially responsible, environmentally appropriate and economically viable forestry.

Ian Lucas

  8. What percentage of woodlands and forest within the UK falls within the definition of being well managed?
  (Ms Jenkins) FSC certified forest—approximately 33 per cent, one-third of the UK's forest cover. That accounts for approximately 75 per cent of the UK's commercial timber production, which is very high compared to most countries. In some areas of the United Kingdom, Wales for example, that is probably a bit higher again but overall one-third of the cover and 75 per cent of commercial production. That is audited to FSC standards and is in receipt of the certificate to that effect.

  9. So the non-commercial woodland is less well managed?
  (Ms Jenkins) There is less incentive to go through the FSC system. It costs money to go through an audit for a forest manager. It is not extortionate but it does cost something. If you are not selling into a market then you would be quite an unusual forest manager to want to go through certification without having that market drive. The FSC is a marketing mechanism, it is a labelling system and it is driven by the market demand for it. There are some organisations that use FSC to prove to their funders that they are well managing their forest. They might not have such a commercial objective. But you are right it is mostly commercial forest.

  10. Would you say that we have a satisfactory situation as far as the United Kingdom is concerned in terms of having a reasonable level of well-managed woodland?
  (Ms Jenkins) Satisfactory, yes. Obviously we can do better and there are some sectors in which we and other agencies within the United Kingdom are working actively to improve matters with. Small forest owners, for example, is an area where we can all do much better. We are engaged in that kind of work now. Yes, it is satisfactory and certainly on a global scale it is very satisfactory but obviously there is much room for improvement.

Mr Francois

  11. Just for the purposes of comparison, if we have around about 75 per cent of our commercial forests are well managed by your definition.
  (Ms Jenkins) Commercial production coming out.

  12. Can you tell us, at least roughly, how that compares to our major EU partners? Are we broadly better or worse?
  (Ms Jenkins) Broadly better.

Mr Jones

  13. Miss Jenkins, when you were describing the 50-something criteria and ten principles, it was in my mind, "God, this is a complicated and exacting scheme, no wonder we cannot make it work very well." Then you said that there was this huge proportion in Britain of forest which met it and you said the Welsh proportion was even higher. I know fairly well large bits of the Welsh proportion. If these huge, monolithic, monocultural, alien species forests of potential white paper meet your criteria, then they clearly are not particularly exacting.
  (Ms Jenkins) They are exacting and forestry is a long-term business. You cannot change a forest overnight because a rotation is at least 50 years and that is for a softwood species. A hardwood species would be even longer, maybe a rotation of 250 years. That is the time it takes to the maturity of the tree. Granted there have been some dreadful mistakes made in the past with forestry in this country and many others around Europe and the world and, yes, there are monolithic and quite visually abhorrent stretches of forest land. With tiny species diversity as well. All those factors are covered within the principles and criteria and the standard. What FSC's accredited certifiers have to see is the plan and the action and the on-the-ground evidence of a change away from that. FSC has two choices. It could either say, "Right, we need to see plans in place now and we need to see changes being made and we will come back every year", which certifiers do and the FSC does in turn to its certifiers. "We need to see you progressing toward species diversity, towards having forests which are more sympathetic to the landscape, more sympathetic to water resources, to wildlife and to local communities". We could either go back and look at progress towards a perfect forest situation and measure and audit that or we can wait 50 years to see it all fixed and then issue the certificate. We believe that it is better to see evidence of all those principles being applied now. On the ground having evidence of that. One thing that you cannot do is fell the forests and start again. That would be absolutely devastating. I agree with your sentiments but we have to take it step-by-step.
  (Mr Sauven) Also in response to that in terms of the ancient forests one of the reasons why we want to see those protected, especially in high conservation value areas, is because if you take the temperate rainforests in Canada in British Columbia you will find trees that are more than 1,000 years old cut down for paper products, for example. That is the reality of what is going on. It is very important that when you are looking at ancient forests and you are certifying logging in ancient forests, first of all you look at areas you want to protect where there are very high conservation values, very rich species diversity. Those should be protected. Then you should look at very high-quality logging which does have very long rotation and means not going back to the same area for 200 or 300 years in areas outside those very high conservation value areas. That is what we mean by having a sustainable policy towards those ancient forests. That obviously means that the Government in terms of aid policies and so on must be sympathetic towards implementing schemes of that nature. When we come on later to look at government procurement policy we will see some of the contradictions between government aid and what they are doing in practice.

Sue Doughty

  14. I quite take the points that you make about not being experts on CITES but there are some things that I think your views on this, keeping away from the particular case in question, will be welcome. Before I start asking about that I would like to congratulate Greenpeace as a whole on making sure that parliamentarians have been aware of this issue for some while. Certainly it was some of the work that you have done that has drawn it to our attention and motivated us very heavily into looking into this and putting it on our agenda some while ago. Thank you for that first of all. In general terms what do you see as the primary concerns over the scope of the CITES Convention?
  (Mr Tait) As John has already made reference to, Greenpeace are not expert in CITES. What we have found is that the CITES Convention, like any other convention, if it is properly implemented, can be a very effective tool. As members of the Committee may be aware, there are three different grades under CITES which are called appendices, and depending on the level of endangerment to particular species they can be put under particular appendices. A subject we have been looking at extensively is mahogany which is an appendix three species. We have a lot of questions regarding the way that particular category and that particular species has been enforced not just in the United Kingdom but also elsewhere. I would not want to comment on the Convention as a whole.
  (Mr Sauven) One of the key things about CITES—and Michael Meacher announced the setting up of this police unit to monitor it more closely because the trade in endangered species is a growing problem—from our point of view we were only in it on the mahogany issue because we were dealing with ancient forests. Here we had the Brazilian Environment Agency banning the logging and trade in mahogany and we had many European governments seizing the import of mahogany coming into their countries, yet the United Kingdom Government, the third largest importer of mahogany in the world, was not doing anything. This is why we took the action that we did on mahogany. It was specifically in relation to that that we got engaged with the CITES issue. It is not an area with which we are familiar.

  15. Your concern has been very much that the United Kingdom has been rather out of line with other countries in managing the import of mahogany and other species which come under those lists. It is how they apply it.
  (Mr Sauven) It is how they applied it in relation to mahogany. We were particularly concerned about that because we have a very important campaign in the Amazon and we have been doing a huge amount of work with the Brazilian Government and the environmental agency there investigating the whole issue of illegal logging and mahogany logging in conjunction with them. Obviously we were expecting support from the UK Government in this work since at the G8 Birmingham Summit and the Okinawa G8 Summit in Japan Tony Blair was very forceful in putting illegal logging on the agenda. They are discussing it this year in Canada as well as in Johannesburg. It is important that while the UK Government was making statements, here they had legal powers to act for once under CITES because it is endangered and did not. That is why we got engaged with this issue.
  (Mr Tait) One more relevant point to bear in mind is that there are many types of timber species that are not covered under CITES and the trade in those species is a problem. It takes an awful lot of effort by members of the Convention to get species listed. Mahogany is a good example. It has been listed as an appendix three species for many years but there are many many arguments that exist that the level of protection offered to mahogany under appendix three is not sufficient. In fact, there have been a number of attempts to try and get it listed as an appendix two species. Those attempts are still on-going. The important point is that at least under CITES in theory there should be opportunities for members signed up to the Convention to act in relation to CITES species to try and protect it and control the trade. For other species that are not listed under CITES there is no scope for action by governments at this point.

  16. You think they should stick to the process they have got for the ones they have got listed at least if we have got that it will suck up some of the other species that are not listed there? Again I do not want to ask you to make a lot of recommendations when it is not particularly your strength. I think many of us familiar with the work that B&Q and IKEA and other similar organisations have done in terms of looking at the suppliers they use and looking at sustainability and considering this know that the economics of what a company is doing in their mainstream business is very different from government procurement. It seems very curious to me, and you may be interested in commenting on this, that while they have been preaching this, and certainly B&Q have put a lot of money into explaining to parliamentarians and politicians of all hues these are the things we are doing, these are the things you can do, we seem to be having a lot of difficulty with the Government recognising its role in that same field in so many of those areas that you were describing in terms of biodiversity, natural habitat, the people who live in that part of the world. It seems to be it is taking forever for the government to get there. You are quite right to recognise that the Government is trying but I have concerns about how it is going away from one another.
  (Mr Sauven) Dr Alan Knight at B&Q has been a leading figure in this. In fact, he is an adviser on government procurement to Michael Meacher. He has offered his services to sort out the Government's procurement problems. He is a recognised expert. He has been through a much more complicated system at B&Q with thousands of product lines and he has toured the world many times looking at forests and forest systems and he has been instrumental in the setting up of the FSC certification scheme. He has offered his assistance to help you. You should take him up on that or ask Mr Meacher or whoever is responsible to take him up on that. He could be key to solving many of your problems. It is quite clear from a lot of the Parliamentary questions that have been asked by MPs and answers you have been given where they have had to come back many times to apologise to several of you for getting it wrong and also in the correspondence that we have had from the Cabinet Office and from documents that have been leaked from Balfour Beatty and so on and so forth that there is an incredible misunderstanding of what exactly certification means, what the definition of it is, what is being asked for, what is being specified. It is quite staggering when you look at the whole list of things how much of this really could be cleared up pretty easily if you got the right people in the room to sit down and discuss it with somebody like Alan Knight because he could really sort your problems out if you ask for his assistance.
  (Ms Jenkins) I have worked a lot and very closely with some of these commercial companies and the key difference between their approach and the Government approach is that, firstly, they know exactly what they want, they know what type of certification they want and they state that clearly. There are some limitations to the Government being able to state that clearly because of the EU Procurement Directive. Obviously these commercial companies are not constrained by that but, nonetheless, they do know what they want and have stated it. The Government can do that but in a slightly more complicated fashion. The second thing, which is quite key, is that B&Q and IKEA and Sainsbury's and many other similar companies approach this problem in a step-by-step manner so they seek to purchase and procure ever increasing amounts of certified timber and so they set themselves targets and approach it in a step-by-step manner. It is my understanding that there were no such targets or step-by-step process behind Michael Meacher's statement. Perhaps that is one way forward and it is something key to learn from those companies because they have achieved an awful lot in 10 years and in many cases less than 10 years.

Mr Barker

  17. You have praised B&Q and others for their best practice which is excellent. Anecdotally I have heard that there are others operating in the United Kingdom —
  (Ms Jenkins)—Many others.

  18.—who have a very poor record.
  (Ms Jenkins) Sorry, yes.

  19. In particular new entrants into the market, WalMart. Do you have any comments to make on WalMart who have of course taken over Asda.
  (Ms Jenkins) I do not have any comments to make on WalMart. I have not worked with them. They are not members of something called the WWF95+ Group. That is a buyers' group where companies work collectively together under the auspices of WWF. That was previously the Worldwide Fund for Nature, not the Wrestling Federation! They work together as a group so that they can put more pressure on their suppliers and work constructively like that. WalMart is not a member of that group nor its equivalent in the US.
  (Mr Tait) I do not have any comments to make about WalMart on this issue. I would like to briefly return to the previous question. One thing we should mention is that when in 2000 Michael Meacher made an announcement regarding requirements for timber procurement, and announced at that point that departments would be annually reporting back, part of that process was setting up an inter-departmental working group and that group has been trying to look, and continues to try and look, at what this process will mean on the ground and how government departments will go about sourcing timber that is from legal and sustainable sources. Obviously it is very good that that process is going on. We would criticise the length of time it has taken for them to get round to looking at this and get round to making some decisions on this as well. They have drafted in some independent consultants called ERM who are currently looking at this and are due to report back in the summer. This is some two years after it became required (not just advised) that government departments should seek to procure timber from legal and sustainable sources. Frankly, it is not good enough that two years later this is still going on and we have examples like the Cabinet Office still going on.


1   See the Forest Stewardship Council website at for FSC Principles and Criteria. Back

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