PEFC declares all timber from Belarus and Russia “conflict timber”

The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC International), as a result of many requests from stakeholders, including BWI, has announced that all timber coming from Russia and Belarus are now considered “conflict timber.” 

In a 3 March letter, BWI urged the PEFC to "suspend with immediate effect all issued and valid certificates and end all trade licenses and other agreements which are directly related to, or based in Russia and Belorussia."

With PEFC's announcement, all Russian and Belarusian timber cannot be used in PEFC-certified products. The PEFC’s Board of Directors made the pronouncement based on the Resolution on Aggression against Ukraine by the United Nations General Assembly, which “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine […] [and] the involvement of Belarus”.

Meanwhile, the Assurance Services International (ASI), which oversees the integrity and credibility of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification Schemes, has recently decided to suspend its FSC oversight activities in Belarus. 

This comes as no surprise as BWI, together with the global trade union movement, has repeatedly asked for an inquiry to independently and credibly assess the workers’ rights situation in the country, which the International Labour Organisation (ILO) claimed to have been systematically violated and even worsened after the 2020 presidential elections.

The review confirmed integrity risks to the FSC system in Belarus, including unacceptable risks to the safety and livelihood of individuals involved in the FSC certification. This decision affects both FM and COC scopes and will have the effect of invalidating the current FSC Certification. 

BWI hoped that the FSC and/or ASI will make the same assessment for Russian timber products in the context of its invasion of Ukraine.