(BALI, INDONESIA / MIRI, MALAYSIA) This week, a coalition of civil society organizations are calling on the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to drop Sarawak timber giant Samling and withdraw its FSC Licence Agreement under a Policy of Association complaint. The complaint names violations of traditional and human rights, destruction of high conservation value forests and significant conversion of forests as grounds for dissociation.
“We’re confident that FSC will take our complaint seriously and hopeful they will stand up for Indigenous rights in Sarawak,” said William Tingang of Long Moh, one of the impacted communities. “It’s high time for the international certification bodies to stop greenwashing Samling’s dirty timber.”
The complaint submission coincides with the FSC General Assembly in Bali and is presented by FSC Indigenous Foundation Council member and native Sarawakian Nicholas Mujah. The complaint was prepared by The Borneo Project, Bruno Manser Fonds, Keruan Organisation, the Gerenai Community Rights Action Committee (GCRAC) and SAVE Rivers — the grassroots organization that Samling is suing for RM 5 million in damages for supposed defamation.
The complaint outlines 3 conflict areas in Sarawak where Samling has logged natural forests in traditional territories in violation of Indigenous rights, without free, prior and informed consent, and resulting in the destruction of high conservation value forest. These areas are: 1. FTL T/0405 (Long Pakan community), 2. MTCS-certified Gerenai and Ravenscourt FMUs (Indigenous communities of the Baram and Limbang watersheds), and 3. the Upper Baram Forest Area (Long Ajeng, Long Moh and others). The complaint is backed up by satellite imagery and community testimony, compiling evidence of encroachment spanning 5 years.
“Nothing can be done for the forests that have already been lost due to Samling’s irresponsible actions, but we hope that something can be done to prevent this ever happening again in the future” said Boyce Ngau of GCRAC.
Samling’s concessions in Sarawak are not FSC certified, however the company holds two chain of custody certificates. According to the FSC Policy for Association, some forestry practices “are so destructive that they cannot be tolerated…organizations found responsible for these activities face exclusion from the FSC scheme.” This includes deforestation, destruction of High Conservation Values, and human and traditional rights violations.
The complaint comes as this year’s FSC meeting places a major emphasis on Indigenous inclusivity. The FSC promotional trademark is intended to guarantee a commitment to sustainable practices and is the world’s most rigorous and trusted forest certification system. Losing its license would be a major blow to Samling’s reputation and its capacity to sell timber products around the world.