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On 2 December 2008 SGS awarded two Statements to Saban Enterprises Ltd (an affiliate company of the Rimbunan Hijau Group) under its Timber Legality & Traceability Verification (TLTV) program. Since then, a number of concerns and criticisms have been put forward by Greenpeace and other environmental NGOs in PNG and the region. SGS wishes to herewith clarify and respond to the issues raised.

Legality vs. sustainability

The SGS TLTV service is a ‘Legality Verification’ program which evaluates legal compliance in the context of forestry operations within a particular national jurisdiction i.e. here PNG. Compliance with the full TLTV Standard can, however, represent a strong commitment to broader Sustainable Forest Management as it critically evaluates companies’ compliance with the three pillars of sustainable development i.e. social, environmental & economic aspects, against the backdrop of legality. The TLTV Standard supports the concept of sustainability, but it remains a legality verification scheme and does not make any claim in respect of either ‘sustainability’ or ‘forest management verification/certification.’

SGS’ independence

SGS herewith confirms it is a fully independent third party Verification and Certification Body accredited to the main forest certification programs worldwide. Due to the wide range of services offered its potential client base includes not only private commercial enterprises but also governments, international institutions, and NGOs. SGS has a compliance program, based on its Code of Integrity and Professional Conduct, to ensure that the highest standards of integrity are applied to all its activities worldwide in accordance with international best practice.

Both the SGS Generic and PNG TLTV Standard have been subjected to a stakeholder consultation process, which included inter alia industry, Government, and academia, as well as the NGO community. SGS has received valuable contributions during the stakeholder process from such role-players as Greenpeace and the PNG Eco-Forestry Forum. In addition to the above stakeholder process, SGS representatives endeavoured to meet with representatives of both, Greenpeace and the PNG Eco-Forestry Forum on several occasions, but unfortunately these parties were unavailable on a range of dates put forward. Notwithstanding, SGS has put an invitation forward to meet with any parties at any time which still stands. SGS stresses the importance and value it attaches to stakeholder engagement.

It is indeed unfortunate that Greenpeace persists to attack the reputation and credibility of the TLTV program despite continuous efforts by SGS to engage with Greenpeace in a constructive and collaborative manner.  For example, SGS provided substantive information in relation to its TLTV scheme after a misinformed evaluation by Greenpeace on global Legality Verification Schemes. Concerning attacks on operational aspects of the legality schemes in Africa and Russia, SGS clarified any concerns of Greenpeace in an extensive communication. Following another report published by Greenpeace, SGS has in a proactive manner included an additional indicator into its Standard to deal with the ‘transfer pricing’ issue (although this aspect was already considered indirectly through a range of indicators in the Standard). SGS must further remind that an audit cannot fulfill the role of a forensic investigation nor can it function as an enforcement arm of a Government. SGS repeats its invitation to Greenpeace to engage with SGS as part of the stakeholder process when concerns exist in relation to any institution it evaluates.

It must be mentioned that the SGS TLTV service has been recognized as a reputable, robust and credible verification scheme internationally. For example, the scheme is accepted by the Governments of the United Kingdom (CPET) and the Netherlands (Keurhout Scheme) as meeting their requirements for timber legality.

SGS believes that the TLTV Standard and verification process are fully transparent. The standards, the list of statements issued, and the Public Summaries of the audits conducted are published on the Internet.  Both, the generic and national TLTV standards are subjected to stakeholder consultation and interaction.
SGS has robust auditing and governing procedures in place. The governance of the TLTV Programme falls within the specific responsibility of the SGS ‘Governments & Institutions Services’ Division (that holds an ISO 9001:2000 certification). The second “governance” mechanism is the multi-stakeholder consultation process (already described) which indirectly places stakeholders representative of NGO, Governments, intergovernmental organizations, academia and other spheres as custodians of the TLTV Standard.

In relation to Forest Carbon Potential, SGS agrees that forests are a valuable store for carbon but feels that decisions as to appropriate land use are the sole responsibility of Governments and landowners.  

Finally, SGS finds it unfortunate that Greenpeace continues to undermine global timber legality verification efforts when both Greenpeace and SGS share a common interest – ensuring that timber harvested in any country meets the criteria of legality and provides the necessary assurances to consumer markets world over.  A more productive cause for a globally reputable environmental NGO such as Greenpeace would be to work with timber producing country governments to improve their legal framework and bring it closer to Sustainable Forest Management standards.

For further information please contact:

Bruce Telfer
General Manager

SGS PNG Ltd & Manager, Asia/Pacific
SGS Forestry Monitoring Services
Tel. +675 323 1433

About SGS

The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With more than 53,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world.