Estonia Could Turn Back on FSC over Dispute in New Standards

Estonian furniture products rely on FSC certification to sell products into Scandinavian countries.

Tue 19 Mar 24


FSC’s “Gold Standard” could soon disappear in Estonia after the state-owned forest owner and producer, RMK, threatened to abandon the certification.

Estonia, which is looking to use timber to pivot towards the EU, has emerged as a growing market for furniture exports in recent years, with the FSC scheme the largest private certification scheme in the country.

“A significant portion of Estonian wood industry companies are FSC certified, as is all the state forest, which accounts for half of the forest land. And then also private forest lands, over 200,000 hectares, most of Estonia’s forest land is FSC certified,” according to Kristjan Massalu, FSC Estonia’s executive director, who spoke to Estonian media.

Estonia has been using a temporary FSC standard over the past eight years because stakeholders could not agree on the wording in the Estonian version of the standard.

However, just months before formally introducing the new standard, RMK, Estonia’s largest forest owner and manufacturer, flagged concerns with the terminology surrounding indigenous peoples—specifically, the Setos and Võros peoples, who have declared themselves “indigenous peoples.”

“The official position of the Republic of Estonia, expressed through the viewpoint of the minister of culture, is that there are no indigenous peoples in Estonia in terms of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” according to Kristjan Tõnisson, one of RMK’s board members.

“So, we cannot support this in any way. We have clarified that if such a requirement is included in the standard, then RMK will forego its FSC certification, and we have communicated this to our partners.”

RMK cannot say what accepting the indigenous peoples’ point would entail in substance, “I think there isn’t currently a debate about what this entails. It’s a very principled discussion,” Mr Tõnisson said.

Should the FSC certification scheme fall over, Mr Tõnisson said Estonian certificate holders could instead rely on PEFC certification – which it has been using as a “parallel certification” since 2010.

“Both are global certificates, valid worldwide. For market participants, this means that at some point, they need to review which certificate’s products they continue to sell to where,” Mr Tõnisson said.

The final wording for the new FSC Estonia standard is expected to be finalised in May and could be rolled out shortly after that. 

Last year, Wood Central reported that Estonia began a process that could see a green economy emerge after introducing a new climate law. The law will come into force in 2025, meaning Estonia will join an increasing number of EU countries that have made firm climate commitments.

It will underpin the country’s most challenging decisions, helping it meet targets around the oil shale phaseout and much-needed investments in housing and transport. Wood Central also reported that it will also see significant investment in Estonia’s timber industry, including in plywood production.

In addition to furniture, Estonia now exports a growing number of sawn and planed timber, pre-fabricated structural details for homes and furniture manufacturers, and modular buildings—all of which carry PEFC or FSC certification.


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