In the process of FSC certification of the first RFE company “Terneiles” by SGS Qualifor Zakharenkov, working closely to local Wildlife Foundation in Khabarovsk (Alexander Kulikov), came to deep conflict with RFE office of WWF, which was trying to keep usual leading position in the process. Finally FCC lost funding and key position, and WWF continued and completed process for “Terneiles”, which got it’s FSC certificate by early 2005. Set of opinions and doubts, presented to SGS by the other NGOs in RFE regarding readiness of this company to be certified was practically ignored by SGS responsible manager, which led to internal crisis in SGS-Russia and change of manager. Their key contradictions with FSC principles, by the vision of RFE NGO community, was ignorance to the regional and national regulations and laws, protecting intact forests of Samarga, which “Terneiles” got lease of in 2001 with a set of legal violations.
This story challenged quite serious skeptical approach to FSC certification in general amongst RFE community of environmental NGOs, independent on WWF. And, as soon as certification itself came to the practice and mentality of East Asian timber market seriously in 2003-2005, WWF found essential and prospective to strengthen it’s win over FCC-Khabarovsk (which was sort of sleeping off funds during these years). In November 2005, WWF-RFE Forest campaign organized meeting of some environmental NGOs, forest concerned officials of Khabarovsk and Primorye Krais and timber companies in Vladivostok, with a target to create a new certifying body in the region under their own control. Zakharenkov was not even invited. Second effort to insert BROC’s representative into the board of this new certifying body, undertaken by Primorye Administration official, was also ignored by WWF concerned community.
This initiative, shared by Primorye Assotiation of timber producers and exporters, PALEX, was more political than essential. It did not consider parallel collaborative process, growing between Japanese timber Importers Association, Khabarovsk based “Dalexportles” and new position of Zakharenkov, which became an official representative of new initiative of SGS – VLTP (Validation of the Legal Timber Program) in RFE-Khabarovsk. This process is based upon the new Japanese law (valid since April, 2006), providing obligatory validation of legality for all the imported timber under inter-governmental documents, signed in framework of the FLEG process. Being in a serious trouble of that, Japan Federation of Timber Industry Associations (Zenmokuren) invited Anatoly Lebedev (BROC) and Dr. Alexander Sheingauz (Institute of Economy, RFE branch of Russian Academy) in March, 2006 to present our vision – how to implement that on the Russian side. We tried to explain, that since our legislation is in the deep changing now, and any forestry control failed, none can give guarantee of legality urgently but globally recognized NGO with any support from authorized certifying company. But, I personally was confused with that, since I had no trust to SGS, and knew no alternative mode to get another support to our own BROC’s opportunity to verify at least reliability of timber, getting abroad from some certain companies, which we deal with.
Meanwhile, to be more efficient with his new funding opportunities, Zakharenkov left his position in FCC and gave it up to Valerii Kulikov, son of Alexander Kulikov, Chair of Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation. Thus Zakharenkov, having practical and strong support in Japan via “Dalexportles”, strengthened a serious competing structure against WWF-SGS in the region. So, to be politically and practically independent in our certification efforts with NEPCON-Smartwood on the RFE, BROC first has to once more clarify it’s opposing and/or separate position from WWF-SGS initiatives, which seems to be developed in the near future mainly in Primorye and, doubtfully, in Amurskaya Oblast with some big companies, close to administration, like “Les Export” in Primorye (Grigory Puzynkin). But, at the same time, we can keep our quiet and more-less friendly relations with Zakharenkov’s system and close relations with Japanese Zenmokuren and RFE “Dalexportles” to develop our parallel strategy in the region, targeted mainly on the middle and small size companies.
Japan oriented strategy of SGS-FCC-“Dalexportles” in Khabarovsk seems to be much more prospective now than WWF-SGS in Vladivostok, since it is based upon incentives from Japanese legislation and importers, and backed with NGO based project of independent control and research, conducted by Federation of timber business Associations.
By the Memorandum, signed by “Dalexportles” and Japanese association of timber importers, they started, in collaboration with Zakharenkov’s VLTP-SGS, to develop so called “internal certificates” with VLTP-SGS label, identifying that some certain logging operations of the certain company are legitimate and fit SGS rules and FSC requirements. But, by the serious analysis, this kind of urgent verification, done before the full size FSC certification completed, seems quite invalid and may need some sort of independent duplicating supervision or research, which can be provided by NGO control. Another model, which BROC already started to insert into timber trade community, is to go by the more flexible, cheep and timely pressed scheme, suggested by Nepcon. It should be acceptable not only for big companies, already involved into the process by SGS structure, but also for the middle and small ones. The core points should be a price of procedure, seriously lower than in SGS, involvement of NGO, which the company trust itself initially, and timetable of the whole process – it should be not longer than half a year.
By this approach BROC can already suggest to work with a set of companies, ready to start certification procedure of Chain of Custody (CoC) or certain logging operation. It may be “Lesex” in Dalnegorsk, selling the timber to EU via Vietnamese lumber campany Tavico, or “Eurostandard” from Krasnoarmeiski Raion in Primorye, supplying lumber strait to EU and local market, “Terneilesstroi”, supplying raw logs and lumber to both China and Japan, mining company AIR in Primorye, supplying only lumber to Japan and China, and company “Yappi”, supplying low cost logs to Chinese sawmills. BROC has a friendly relations with all these companies, as well as the biggest timber exporter from Amurskaya Oblast – “Tyndales”, which we got a first contact already recently.
Regarding working infrastructure of BROC, we have a perfect relations with any timber and forestry specialists in the region for any consulting and practical involvement to check legality and sustainability of forestry and timber business, Specifically, we are the only NGO, ready to present analysis of legality and sustainability of officially delivered logging licenses and export certificates, concerns of companies to local and indigenous community interests, environmental impact assessment, respectability of the forest inventory and other details, not clearly provided by the current legislation.