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Secrecy of audit puzzling Resolute claims results were ‘full of errors’

Chronicle Journal

May 24, 2014

By: Carl Clutchey

A move by Resolute Forest Products to keep the results of a draft audit into its forestry practices on two Thunder Bay-area Crown forests from public view has left local forest industry experts puzzled and frustrated.

“I think it’s very unfair,” Thunder Bay-based Ontario Nature boreal forest program manager Julee Boan said Friday.  “Resolute can make claims (about how the audit was conducted), but now those claims are going unchallenged.  This is supposed to a be a transparent process”.  Boan and other observers were taken aback earlier this month after Resolute successfully obtained an Ontario court order to prevent an audit on the Caribou and Black Spruce Dog River-Matawin forests from being made public.

Resolute spokesman Seth Kursman said earlier this week that the company had no choice because the draft report was, in the company’s view, way off base. 
“We didn’t want it to come out, because it was just so alarming,” said Kursman, who is based in Montreal.  “It was full of errors and omissions”.

Companies like Resolute that seek to be recognized for environmental sustainable forestry practices, through certification, must be subject to regular audits.

When they pass those audits, their products can be accompanied by a stamp of approval from internationally recognized accredited agencies like the Canadian Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Companies don’t have to be recognized to log on Crown forests, but having a  stamp helps them sell their products, particularly in environmentally-conscious countries in Europe.

Among other things, audits examine how well companies ensure wildlife and First Nations values are protected.

In the case of the Caribou and Black Spruce Dog River-Matawin forests, the audit was being conducted by the industry-respected Rainforest Alliance, which reviews forestry practices for many companies.

In a statement this week, Rainforest said “we have never before been sued by an FSC certificate holder.”  “We are disappointed that Resolute has resorted to these measures,” the statement added. 

Rainforest said it suspended three of Resolute’s FSC certificates in January.  “When the certificate holder does not address the non-conformances within the time period established by FSC, we are required to suspend the certificate,” Rainforest said. “We may not lift a suspension unless and until the certificate holder has demonstrated to us that is has taken the necessary corrective actions.”

Said Boan, “Lots of companies use Rainforest as an auditor, but they set a very high standard.”

Kursman declined to say what it will do next regarding the two affected forests.  He said the majority of the forests Resolute logs on are certified for best practices by FSC or other agencies.

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