The Danish timber giant Dalhoff Larsen and Horneman (DLH), a company accused of buying conflict timber during Liberia’s civil war, has been stripped of its certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) because it purchased illegal Liberian Private Use Permit (PUP) logs. Responding to a complaint submitted by Global Witness, the world’s largest timber certifier said that DLH can no longer use the FSC brand to claim that its timber is legal and sustainable. Additionally, FSC ruled that if DLH wants to regain its certification it must compensate Liberian communities for damage to their forests. (1)
In 2012, DLH purchased timber worth US$304,870 from Global Logging and Liberia Hardwood, companies that held three PUPs in Grand Bassa and Gbarpolu counties. DLH bought this timber even though the Liberian government had announced a moratorium on PUP operations in February 2012. In December of that year, a government investigation reported that PUP logging licenses were illegal, having been obtained through fraud, corruption, and without the consent of local communities. The government has subsequently halted all PUP operations and cancelled 29 contracts. (2)
“PUPs were the largest land grab in Liberian history, covering 23 percent of the country,” said Global Witness co-Director Patrick Alley. “We call upon the company to immediately fix the problem they helped create and compensate affected communities in Grand Bassa and Gbarpolu.”
In a release issued yesterday, DLH claimed that all the timber it purchased was "legally exported and audited by the verification company, SGS” and that the company "immediately stopped purchasing timber from Liberia when a government report concluded that the felling licences were not issued on a legal basis." DLH also stated that it anticipates “retaining” its FSC certification by meeting the conditions outlined by FSC in the next three months. (3) Included in these conditions is the requirement that DLH “compensate the communities in Liberia affected by the Private Use Permits DLH was sourcing from, for the losses and lost income they incurred.”
DLH has a notorious track record in Liberia. During the civil war DLH purchased timber from loggers including Gus Kouwenhoven’s Oriental Timber Company (OTC), which had close links to Charles Taylor, maintained private militias and allegedly committed human rights abuses and traded arms during the war. Much of this was known to DLH at the time, as it was reported by the UN Security Council Panel of Experts, numerous NGOs (including Global Witness), and was the subject of widespread press coverage. DLH and other timber companies have so far not been held accountable for their role in fuelling Liberia’s civil war. However, Kouwenhoven is the subject of a criminal trial in the Netherlands, and in France Global Witness, Green Advocates, Greenpeace, and Sherpa have filed a criminal complaint against DLH. (4)
“DLH has a horrific record of financing conflict through the trade in timber during Liberia’s civil war,” said Alley. “While we welcome the FSC’s decision to penalize the company for its role in the PUP scandal, DLH still has not been brought to justice and has not compensated Liberia for the damage it helped cause during the war.”
The FSC decision will, however, bolster efforts by the Liberian government to hold accountable logging companies currently operating in the country. To date the government has cancelled PUP contracts and indicted eight government officials, but so far no PUP companies have been prosecuted. Indeed, companies that profited from PUPs, including Liberia Hardwood and Atlantic Resources (the largest PUP holder), continue to log their other concessions. In its September 2014 US$150 million agreement with the government of Norway, Liberia pledged to investigate current logging companies and cancel any contracts found to be illegal. (5) This investigation can now draw on this FSC ruling that companies profiting from illegal logging in Liberia should be penalized.
“The Liberian government has made a strong commitment to reinstate the rule of law in the forest sector. The FSC decision against DLH demonstrates that it is not alone in its efforts to hold accountable timber companies that abuse Liberia’s forests and communities,” said Alley.
Jonathan Gant: [email protected], +44 (0)20 7492 5867.
Notes to editors
- FSC certification allows companies to label their FSC products, which in turn enables consumers to identify and choose products that support responsible forest management. Global Witness’ complaint to FSC about DLH, containing detailed evidence against the company is available at http://www.globalwitness.org/sites/default/files/library/Formal%20compla.... For a copy of the FSC ruling, see Forest Stewardship Council Disassociates from the DLH Group, 12 February 2015, available at file:///C:/Users/jgant/Documents/Downloads/20150212%20FSC%20Statement_Di.... FSC’s decision to disassociate from DLH means the company and its subsidiaries will lose their membership of FSC and the chain of custody certificates they hold.
- For information on the Liberian government’s investigation into the PUP scandal, see Special Independent Investigations Body, Report on the issuance of Private Use Permits, December 2012, available at http://www.cental.org/SIIB%20Report%20on%20PUPs.pdf. For information on the subsequent actions taken by the government regarding the PUP scandal, see Global Witness, Save My Future Foundation, Sustainable Development Institute, NGOs welcome landmark indictments of Liberian government officials attached to illegal logging scandal, 7 March 2014, available at http://www.globalwitness.org/library/ngos-welcome-landmark-indictments-l...
- DLH, Update of DLH’s FSC certification, 12 February 2015, available at http://www.dlh.com/News/Environmental-news/2015/2015-02-12.aspx.
- For information regarding the role of DLH and other logging companies during Liberia’s civil war, see Global Witness, Bankrolling Brutality, 2010, available at http://www.globalwitness.org/sites/default/files/import/bankrolling_brut.... For information regarding the complaint filed against DLH in France, see Sherpa, Global Witness, Greenpeace France, Green Advocates, Complaint accuses international timber company DLH of trading illegal timber and funding Liberian war, 13 March 2014, available at http://www.globalwitness.org/library/complaint-accuses-international-tim....
- A copy of the Liberia-Norway partnership agreement can be found at Government of Norway, Liberia and Norway launch climate and forest partnership, 23 September 2014, available at https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/Liberia-and-Norway-launch-climate-....