Switzerland has 30% forest coverage, totalling 1.2 million hectares, half of which is FSC-certified. 70% of Swiss timber comes from certified forests.
© FSC SwitzerlandMost FSC-certified forests belong to communities and all are organised in certification groups; unlike the UK, there are no single FM certificates. There is a process going on to join all of the Swiss schemes into a single national FSC group certificate.
Switzerland itself is also extremely aware of FSC. Recognition of the FSC label is 87% among the population, when prompted. One reason for this is that FSC is strongly supported by big retailers in the country, and by companies like Tetra Pak.
The FSC logo is common in fridges throughout the country and FSC is also strong in the paper and printing sector, though there is still progress to be made in the construction sector.
Always struggling: the challenges
Swiss forest owners are small and middle-sized communities. In the Alps, the timber harvest is not often profitable and the private owners (averaging 1.5 ha) do not harvest regularly.
Annual growth is 10 million m3, harvest is 5 million m3, and consumption is 10 million m3. This means that the pressure from imports is very high. 70% of the timber used in the construction sector is mainly imported from neighbouring countries.
The economic pressure on the forestry sector and the wood industry is very high and FSC is sometimes questioned, simply for financial reasons. A big problem for forestry, timber and the wood industry in Switzerland is the overvaluation of the Swiss franc. The currency exchange rate of the Swiss franc to the euro is always a hot topic.
Switzerland has some of the strictest forest legislation. Clear cutting, for example, is forbidden by law and natural regeneration is of high priority. Since 2010, any party selling timber or timber products to consumers must disclose information about the timber species and the country of harvest.
FSC is challenged by a national label called 'Timber of Swiss Origin'. Forest owners and industry partially consider it as an alternative to FSC and the national label is strongly (financially) supported by the government.
© FSC SwitzerlandProjects
The Centralised National Risk Assessment CNRA was approved in March with all indicators on “low risk”.
After a lot of work, the National Forest Management Standard Revision is also in its final stage. The draft NFSS was submitted in February to FSC International for approval.
FSC Switzerland has company partnerships with Implenia, the biggest construction company in Switzerland and with the International Watch Company (IWC).
Implenia is funding a database to find FSC-certified products in the construction sector. Watch manufacturer IWC organises biannual corporate volunteering days with their employees. The activities included range from planting trees to thinning forest edges or removing fences in FSC-certified forests. IWC promotes the use of FSC-certified packaging for their luxury watches and other internal use of FSC products.
Who we are
FSC Switzerland operates with two co-presidents plus seven more members of the board. One co-president is Reto Müller from Swissprinters (left in pic), the biggest company in the Swiss graphics industry and the other is Theo Kern from WaldAargau, who lately resigned the position (middle in pic).
The national FSC office is run by Hubertus Schmidtke (Director) and Marta Valina (Secretariat, MarCom and TSP). In addition, there is Karl Büchel, an external expert managing the standard development group. All work part-time for FSC.
The team operate a consulting company in the forestry sector, SILVACONSULT AG. They run the national FSC office on a mandate basis.
The group dedicate work hours to detailed FSC tasks and invoice on a monthly basis to the Swiss FSC Association. SILVACONSULT also works on forest projects outside of the FSC mandate; currently it is developing a methodology for forest carbon projects to generate carbon credits.
A version of this article appeared originally in the July/August 2018 edition of Forest Matters.