Documentary on FSC forest certification

2 September 2019

Television documentary criticism of FSC forest certification

Stora Enso’s response

The Franco-German TV network ARTE has broadcast a documentary criticising the FSC®* (Forest Stewardship Council) certification system. The documentary presented several examples around the world to make its case, including Veracel, Stora Enso’s 50/50 joint operation in Brazil that manages a pulp mill and eucalyptus plantations in southern Bahía State. The documentary also criticised the Swedish FSC certification standards and Stora Enso’s operations in Sweden.

As a company that stands for openness, transparency, and dialogue, we regret that the documentary did not give Veracel the opportunity to present its views. The journalists only offered to meet Veracel at very short notice on a day when Veracel’s managers were not available and they declined several attempts by Veracel to reschedule the interview to another day. This resulted in a one-sided documentary that left out our side of the story.

Veracel tree plantations in Brazil

The documentary makes several claims on the negative impact of eucalyptus plantations on local biodiversity and water availability, and about Veracel evicting people from its lands.

All Veracel’s tree plantations were established on degraded pasture lands, and no rainforest has been converted into plantations. When Veracel’s plantations were established in 1991, less than 7% of the original Atlantic rainforest was left in the region following extensive logging and clearing for cattle between the 1960s and 1980s. Since the plantations were established, Veracel has worked systematically to protect and restore local biodiversity. 

Approximately half of Veracel’s 213 500 hectares of land is dedicated to rainforest preservation and restoration, and Veracel aims to restore approximately 400 hectares of rainforest habitat every year. A total of 7 217 hectares of forest, corresponding to over 9 000 soccer fields, have been restored between 1994 and the end of 2018. This significant contribution to the conservation of natural Atlantic rainforest and its rich biodiversity has been recognised by both the Brazilian authorities and international stakeholders. Read more about our work to replant rainforest and how endangered jaguars are finding their way back into Bahía.

Veracel continuously monitors the water balance and quality of its eucalyptus plantations and the surrounding native Atlantic rainforest. Veracel also provides water-related data to an independent research organisation. The results of the monitoring do not show significant difference in water use or quality in plantations compared with the native Atlantic rainforest.

Contrary to the claims presented in the film, Veracel has a good relationship with the local indigenous communities, aiming to maintain a dialogue with them and contribute to the preservation of traditional culture. Although indigenous communities are neighbors to Veracel's plantations, it is important to note that the company does not plant in their areas.

All Veracel’s land has been acquired legally. All land acquisitions have been conducted in good faith between the parties involved, based on fair market prices, with all relevant duties paid, and without any issues raised at the time of the transactions.

Land invasions of private property are a long-running challenge in Brazil that have affected various actors who use areas of land, such as mining companies and farming business. Landless movements have also illegally invaded Veracel’s lands. To help find sustainable local solutions, Veracel strives to maintain continuous dialogue with these movements and supports land allocations. This involves reserving 16 500 hectares of land for settlements and providing socio-economic support for initiatives such as agricultural activities and literacy promotion.

This work has brought about significant positive benefit in the area and has helped mitigate conflicts but some land invasions still take place. After signing a new agreement with the social landless movements in the last quarter of 2018, 468 hectares of Veracel’s productive land remained illegally occupied by landless groups by the end of the year. Veracel continues to seek repossession of this land through legal processes. Any eviction of people from illegally occupied areas must be based on court decisions and carried out by the authorities, and Veracel does not allow any form of violence in these situations. The company has a clear non-violence policy that it also expects its business partners to abide by.

To support the livelihoods of neighbouring communities, Veracel makes some of its land available to family farmers and provides them with training and technical support. Veracel also enables local beekeepers to keep their hives on the company’s land, and provides training in beekeeping. Read more

Forestry in Sweden

The documentary makes claims about FSC certification allowing unsustainable clear cutting and biodiversity depletion in Sweden.

Stora Enso has solid processes in place to protect forest biodiversity. We only harvest from forests where professional conservation value assessments have been conducted. If there is any uncertainty about conservation, the Swedish Forest Agency is always consulted before a timber harvesting notification is submitted. We are proud of the work we do, and our positive impact on biodiversity and healthy forests.

Clear cutting is a common and efficient regeneration method in boreal forests that is continuously developed and improved. Areas subject to clear cutting simulate the natural regeneration that previously took place through forest fires and storms. It is one of our harvesting methods and ensures healthy forest regeneration. Harvesting always takes into account the local conservation values.

Deforestation does not take place in Sweden as at least two new trees are planted for every tree harvested. The total Swedish forest resource has doubled between 1930-2018. According to the Swedish Forestry Act, it is the landowner’s responsibility to ensure that new forest is planted after harvesting.

Our stand on FSC

Stora Enso actively promotes and participates in the development of forest certification standards. Contrary to the claims in the documentary, FSC provides a rigorous system to verify and advance sustainable forest management. No system is perfect, but rather than shooting down important sustainability standards that have been created and developed for decades, we believe in further improving forest certification together with all stakeholders through national and regional processes.

We welcome an open dialogue on these issues, and will happily show how we work for sustainable tree plantation and forest management. Sustainable forestry safeguards forest health and productivity, helps combat global warming, protects biodiversity – and secures the long-term availability of our renewable raw material.

Noel Morrin
EVP, Sustainability

tel. +46 7307 68898

* Stora Enso Communications’ FSC® trademark license number is FSC-N001919


A typical landscape in Veracel operating area, Bahia, before establishment of eucalyptus plantations. The native Atlantic rainforest has been extensively logged and cleared for pasture between the 1960s and 1980s.

Forest mosaic

A mosaic of Veracel plantation and protected and restored native Atlantic rainforest

Noel Morrin

Noel Morrin

EVP Sustainability

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