Friday 8th of October 2010 was a turning point for FSC in Finland: Following tough negotiations, stakeholders representing economic, social, and environmental interests came together on a Finnish FSC forest management standard including 204 indicators of good forestry.
The standard is the outcome of 10 years of work to reconcile conflicting interests.
Finnish forest industries are coming along
Almost the entire Finnish forest territory is already PEFC-certified, and the forest industry has for many years not shown any interest to participate in the FSC process. Chairman of the FSC Working Group Tari Haahtela explains why the forest industry became interested in joining FSC a few years ago:
“Several trends came together to make this happen. First of all, FSC was expanding globally and becoming visible on the Finnish domestic market as well. A growing number of Finnish companies were getting FSC chain of custody certified, and had to import FSC raw material from abroad to meet their customers’ demands. And J.K. Rowling came to Finland and told that all of her Harry Potter books would be printed on FSC-certified paper only! Secondly, the mentality among Finnish forest owners is changing. This is also connected with demographic changes - many forest owners nowadays are city-dwellers and generally more concerned about environmental protection”.
According to Haahtela, leading companies such as UPM Kymmene, Stora Enso and Metsäliitto have expressed their interest in offering FSC group certification to the numerous private forest owners in Finland.
“The forest industries are really coming along now. I am convinced that many hectares in Finland will be FSC-certified now”, is the optimistic outlook offered by Haahtela. Due to its size, the Finnish forest sector has major impact on the European timber market and globally.
The letter from FSC
Bringing the group to consensus has taken lots of patience and facilitation. “I think I was brought into this process because it required a doctor - not a judge”, says Haahtela. He is indeed a doctor by profession - and thus an outsider to the Finnish forest battle. “This was an advantage, but still it was a difficult job to chair this process”.
However, progress did happen little by little, and a letter from FSC-International proved to be the final push. “FSC kindly presented us with a firm deadline for finalizing the process. This made both the environmental groups and the forest industries realize the need for compromises. They saw that if we could end up with a result where nobody was satisfied, then the standard would be OK!” says Haahtela.
Hot issues solved
One of the most debated issues was the rights of the indigenous peoples of Finland, in particular the reindeer herding Sami culture of Lapland.
“Eventually, the indigenous peoples’ right to involvement in forest management decision-making was built into the FSC standard”, explains Haahtela. “Some other tough issues concerned the definition of High Conservation Value Forests, the number of biodiversity trees to be left at harvesting sites, and buffer zones”.
Also, the definition of maximum size of ‘small’ forest operations in FSC terminology, allowing the certification of these to follow more simple procedures, was a matter of discussion. “This was the very last issue to find a solution. In the end, the working group agreed on a 500 ha size limit. This is low compared to Sweden where they operate with 1,000 ha, but it reflects the fact that there are so many small-sized forest properties in this country”.
Endurance won the battle
The group has been working for a full decade on a very low budget, and several people including Haahtela have contributed their working time for free. Why did he volunteer such an extraordinary amount of time to this process?
“This was a new field to me and the process was interesting! And you know, the Finnish people were the last Europeans to come out of the forest - our connection with nature is close. Also, through my medical work I have seen how many human health problems are caused by our disconnection from nature”.
Haahtela also highlights the role of the Secretary of the FSC working group, Pasi Miettinen. “He has played a crucial role by serving the group and keeping all the papers together throughout all these years”.
Tari Haahtela, Chairman of FSC in Finland
Kjell-Owe Ahlskog, Manager of NEPCon’s certification activities in Finland, comments: “Finland now finally has a firm base from where the FSC certification in the country can develop further. This new standard is developed in a broad multi-stakeholder process and backed up by the forest industry, environmental NGOs and Sami people. The patient and persistent work carried out by Tari Haahtela and Pasi Miettinen has been essential in this process“.
So far, two FSC forest management certificates have been issued to forest owners in Finland. One of them is held by the company Innofor (SW-COC-004291) which is offering FSC group certification. The other is held by the family Jalas (SW-FM/COC-000163). Both certificates are issued by the Rainforest Alliance, based on professional services delivered by NEPCon.
The new standard will be applicable pending international FSC's approval, which the Finnish FSC working Group expects to be in place by early 2011.
Tari Haahtela is Professor of Clinical Allergology at the Skin and Allergy Hospital in Helsinki. Besides his commitment to the FSC working Group, Mr. Haahtela devotes his spare time to his great hobby, professional photography of butterflies.
Contact the FSC National Initiative in Finland
Tari Haahtela, Chairman, + 358 9 471 8635 5
Pasi Miettinen, Secretary, + 358 40 564 7840
Keijo Savola, environmental chamber, + 358 45 652 1974
Antti Otsamo, Economic Chamber, + 358 40 719 7734
MILE Mustonen, social chamber, + 358 407647931