Ecojustice Blog – Nature Posted on August 23, 2021 (updated: August 24, 2021)

‘Sustainable’ logging in old-growth forests: Consumers are being misled

Vicky HusbandClient
Devon PageLawyer
Massive old-growth tree stump in a forest in British Columbia

A quick visit to the Teal-Jones Group website will show you much of what you need to know about how consumers are being misled into believing that the wood products they buy are sustainable.

On the sustainability page of Teal-Jones’ website, the company — which has made headlines for its attempt to log the Fairy Creek region — states its commitment to “the continued health and sustainability of our forests.” It also proclaims that its operations “voluntarily meet Canada’s leading national standard for sustainable forestry” through the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Sustainable Forest Management Standard.

That all sounds great in theory. The problem is the CSA’s logging certification scheme, the Sustainable Forest Management Standard, does not “certify,” i.e. “guarantee,” that wood from forestry operations it certifies are sustainably logged.

That’s one reason First Nations and environmentalists have been fighting Teal-Jones’ attempts to log Fairy Creek and Caycuse Valley, the site of Canada’s longest-running logging blockade.

Simply put, there is no biological basis for certifying as sustainable the practice of cutting down 500-year-old trees, while just three per cent of B.C.'s old-growth forests remain.

And that’s the problem. The CSA intends to give the impression that logging occurring pursuant to the CSA standard is “sustainable” or “certified sustainable” and achieves “sustainable forest management.”  CSA’s certification understandably leads consumers to believe wood from “certified” forests is preferable because it was harvested sustainably — even though the standard does not actually require that logging meet any definition of sustainability.

In fact, the CSA leaves it up to the logging companies to self-identify that their activities are sustainable. The result is akin having the fox guard the henhouse.

Canada currently has 13 million hectares of CSA-certified forest, more than any other country. Of that, two million hectares are in British Columbia.

CSA-certified logging in B.C. has damaged salmon streams and cleared vast tracts of forest without requring protections for critical biodiversity, fish, and wildlife habitat or with necessary consideration of forest values other than logging consistent with internationally accepted definitions of “sustainable.”

The CSA has certified forest operations in forest types known to have less than 10 per cent of their original old forest cover (less than 30 per cent is considered to pose a “high risk” to biodiversity). It has also certified B.C. Timber Sales, the B.C. government’s logging agency at the centre of controversies over logging in old-growth forests such as the Nahmint Valley in Port Alberni.

This situation cannot continue. Represented by Ecojustice, a group of Canadians whose lives have been deeply impacted by unsustainable logging filed a complaint with the Competition Bureau calling for an investigation into CSA’s certification system under the Competition Act, alleging that the CSA’s description of its forestry certification standard as the “Sustainable Forest Management System” and representations it makes about that are materially false and misleading.

The CSA certification not only misleads consumers, it takes advantage of consumer appetite for “sustainable” products and disadvantages legitimately sustainable products, which appear more costly and less attractive in comparison.

In most cases, it is easier and faster for a company to get a hollow CSA sustainability certification than take the necessary steps to achieve sustainable logging practices.

We have asked the Standards Council of Canada – by which the CSA is accredited – and the Competition Bureau to investigate the organization to get the CSA to retract its claims about sustainability and acknowledge that logging done under its standard is not sustainable. We believe CSA should also be required to pay a hefty fine for the harm its misrepresentations have caused — money that should go towards supporting conservation projects for real sustainability.

It is time to pull back the veil of the Canadian Standards Association’s so-called Sustainable Forest Management Standard certification and hold it accountable for perpetuating false, misleading, and material representations that are helping destroy B.C.’s last ancient trees.

This article was written by Devon Page, executive director at Ecojustice, and Vicky Husband, conservation advocate, recipient of the Order of Canada, the Order of BC, and the United Nations Global 500 Award for environmental achievement. Vicky is one of the signatories to the complaint filed with the Competition Bureau.

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