Nordic Ecolabelling scheme to review tropical criteria

Photo: Mark van Benthem, Probos

After persistent lobbying, the criteria of the Nordic Ecolabel scheme, described by critics as a ‘de facto ban’ on sale of tropical timber, are now set to be reviewed. But those pressing for change are still urging more industry stakeholders to join with them in calling for revision of the scheme.

New criteria on tropical timber were introduced for users of the Nordic Ecolabel, one of Scandinavia’s highest profile green labelling schemes, in 2016. Besides insisting that all timber products bearing the Ecolabel were 70% FSC or PEFC certified, with the remainder FSC controlled wood or from PEFC controlled sources, the scheme’s executive drew up an 82-strong list, dominated by tropical species, that it would not cover. As well as many lesser-known species, these included a range of varieties widely sold in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe. Among them are ipé, doussie, jatoba, movingui and okoumé.

Qualifications for being put on the prohibited list were CITES listing, and inclusion on the IUCN red list (categorized as critically endangered (CR)), endangered (EN), vulnerable (VU) and relevant species as Near Threatened (NT). Species from forest designated under a range of criteria as ‘unsustainable’ were also included. Requirements can be found here.

FSC Denmark, WWF Denmark, Forests of the World, the Danish Timber Trade Federation and 13 other Danish organisations and companies immediately wrote to Nordic Ecolabelling protesting about its ‘inappropriate non-approval of sustainable tropical wood’.

They said it amounted to an effective ‘dismissal’ of tropical species from using the Ecolabel and that the consequences, far from supporting maintenance of the forest, could actually damage its prospects.

“A frequent incentive for development of sustainable forestry in [tropical] areas is the substantial income that results from international demand for the timber,” stated the letter. “If this incentive is removed, certification is often abandoned, and the forest becomes vulnerable to illegal logging or conversion to other land use. We must support the forestry sector in tropical countries, purchase timber from sustainable forestry and, as a [Nordic] region, take responsibility for development of these areas.”

At the time, Nordic Ecolabelling chairwoman Kristin Linda Árndottir said its tropical list had been developed ‘through democratic process and skilled reasoning’. She said it would remain in place, with species added or removed as appropriate.

FSC Denmark is acting as the hub for current lobbying to revise the scheme.

“It’s a huge problem as it’s the most well known label in all of Scandinavia and increasingly a requirement in public procurement policies,” said FSC Denmark Project Coordinator Kristian Jørgensen.

He added that Nordic Ecolabelling was now looking at revising its criteria, with a consultation period mid-January.

“As well as seeking allies in Sweden, Norway and Finland, we would welcome letters of support from voices in the tropics and strong networks across Europe to help make the scheme understand that the markets can drive important change in  tropical forests, and certification is a reliable tool. We believe in a system based on requirements set in the forestry context instead of a single species evaluation. With all the local and regional differences in conservation status and protection and law and management practices, it would be hard to see  current species evaluation as a fair tool and it risks excluding those who have put  effort into the development of sustainable forest management,” said Mr Jørgensen.

For further information and to support the campaign, contact Kristian Jørgensen at