Greenwash: critical analysis of FSC certification of industrial tree monocultures in Uruguay

Greenwash: critical analysis of FSC certification of industrial tree monocultures in Uruguay

FSC certification : environmentally inappropriate, socially damaging and economically unviable?

In Uruguay there is growing opposition to the large-scale monoculture plantations of Eucalyptus and Pine. This has partly originated from years of campaigning by local environmental, social and trade union organisations, who have been documenting the impacts of this forestry model. This paper finds that the negative environmental and social consequences of monoculture forestry and ‘green label’ certification leave much to be desired.

This paper documents Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification of large-scale, monoculture plantations owned by corporate organisations since 2001. The author maintains that despite historical evidence of environmental destruction and anti-union policies, the FSC has expanded certification to companies engaged in the unsustainable and ecologically–unfriendly practice of monoculture forestry. This raises a serious issue, in that certification entails a weakening of local opposition, since it supposedly grants a "green seal of approval" to the companies that own and operate these plantations. It is emphasises that this label is granted by a prestigious institution with the active participation of social and environmental NGOs, which were in fact responsible for creating and promoting this certification scheme.

The author concludes that these certifications are eroding the international credibility of the FSC, whose original mission was to protect the world’s forests through responsible management by promoting “environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable” forestry. Instead, the study finds that:

  • in environmental terms, plantations have serious impacts on water (surface and underground), grassland flora, fauna, and the landscape, and that that these in turn have a significant effect on other rural economic activities, especially agriculture, sheep farming and honey production
  • in social terms, large-scale monoculture tree plantations have caused greater concentration of land ownership in corporate and foreign hands, the depopulation of rural areas, and has impacted agricultural production while providing limited employment under precarious conditions. There have been very few benefits to local communities.

The paper recommends that FSC:

  • definitively stop certifying large-scale monoculture tree plantations in Uruguay
  • send a clear signal in this regard to the certification companies that are currently assessing the certification of other plantations in the country
  • withdraw the certificates granted to the companies evaluated in this study as soon as possible.
  1. How good is this research?

    Assessing the quality of research can be a tricky business. This blog from our editor offers some tools and tips.