As Resolute Forest Products was releasing the results of its fourth quarter and 2015 operations, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was criticizing the company’s alleged “unwillingness” to be involved in mediation efforts to resolve its suspended Canadian FSC certificates.
The FSC said Thursday it has now abandoned its efforts to engage Resolute in such a process; instead the organization said it would continue to engage other Canadian organizations that are willing to find solutions.
“During a (November) meeting with Resolute FPs’ CEO, there were no signs that Resolute is willing to engage in efforts to resolve the problems they pointed out so eloquently. This confirms the consistent, negative signals we are receiving from Resolute, and for this reason, FSC is abandoning the idea of a mediation process involving Resolute Forest Products,” said FSC director-general Kim Carstensen.
“Instead, FSC will now develop a national discussion among the many other members of FSC, who have expressed their willingness to come together to find solutions. In this setting we are confident that we can address contentious issues that the Canadian boreal forest faces, specifically First Nations’ rights and protection for species at risk, including woodland caribou,” said Carstensen.
“Resolute Forest Products’ attitude and unwillingness to engage in finding a solution to problems it raised will be presented to the board of FSC International at its next meeting in March. The board will be asked to consider Resolute Forest Products destitution as a member of FSC, or whether there are other means in FSC’s statutes of making it clear that FSC does formally require from its members to share the same values of co-operation and constructive engagement that the FSC system is built on,” Carstensen added.
Reacting to the criticism, Resolute spokesman Seth Kursman said that it is unwarranted.
“We are surprised and disappointed with the FSC news release, considering (that) in a recent meeting with Carstensen (and the head of FSC in Canada), company president Richard Garneau was joined by the president and chairman of the Quebec Forest Industries Association, the Quebec Forestry minister and others, and they were unanimous in expressing concerns to FSC and committed to work within the current FSC consultative processes to work through issues of concern,” Kursman said.
“On the question of mediation led by FSC specifically, this isn’t appropriate considering the issues at play are under provincial government jurisdiction,” he said, noting that “FSC cannot usurp the role of the provincial governments in Canada.”
The Forest Stewardship Council announced in December that it hoped to bring together Resolute Forest Products, First Nations, unions, environmental groups and others to find “common ground” over contentious issues raised about FSC certification in Canada. The primary focus would have been on Resolute’s suspended Lac St-Jean certificate and terminated Mistassini certificates.
The FSC announcement came several weeks after Resolute threatened not to seek new FSC certifications for its Canadian forests over fears that possible changes to an international designation process might constrain its supply of wood.
Resolute went on to say that the FSC news release issued on Thursdy, misrepresents the substance and status of company’s good faith efforts to engage in dialogue with FSC.
Contrary to FSC’s characterization of our “unwillingness,” Resolute says it has repeatedly indicated that the company is open to taking part in multi-party discussions on policies affecting forestry in Ontario and Quebec.
The company states in a news release that “we pointed out that provincial governments, the duly elected representatives of the people and the relevant regulatory authorities, must lead those discussions. Indeed, the issues with Resolute’s certificates cannot be resolved without the leadership of the provincial governments, which have legal jurisdiction over these matters.
“When company representatives met with Carstensen in late January, that meeting included those provincial officials and other industry representatives, not just Resolute, as FSC’s news release implies. Those government officials reiterated that they have legal jurisdiction over the land in question and must therefore oversee any policy affecting the Canadian communities that live and work there.”