Global Witness submitted a formal complaint to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) on 10 September 2014, alleging that the Vietnam Rubber Group’s (VRG) rubber plantations in non FSC-certified areas were negatively impacting the environment, and the livelihoods of local communities in Cambodia and Laos, as a result of activities defined as unacceptable in the Policy for the Association of Organizations with FSC (FSC–POL–01–004). FSC accepted the complaint on 24 September 2014.
FSC established an impartial complaints panel in December 2014, which conducted an independent evaluation of the complaint, to determine if the following unacceptable activities, as defined by the FSC Policy for Association, occurred with the establishment of plantations in Cambodia by VRG.
1. The illegal logging and trade of illegal wood and forest products.
2. The violation of traditional and human rights.
3. The destruction of high conservation values
4. The significant conversion of forests to plantations or non-forest use.
5. The violation of any of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Core Conventions.
After conducting a thorough and detailed investigation, the complaints panel concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that unacceptable activities 1 to 4 had occurred with the establishment of plantations in Cambodia by VRG, and the panel concluded that it was on the balance of probabilities that VRG had violated the ILO Core Conventions.
The involvement of VRG in these activities had serious impacts on the rights and livelihoods of communities in Cambodia and Laos, as well as on the natural resources of the region. On 13 August 2015, the FSC Board of Directors decided that FSC would disassociate from VRG.
FSC has provided VRG with a set of conditions which, if satisfactorily fulfilled, would be grounds for considering an end of the disassociation with the company.
This set of conditions includes for VRG to fully compensate stakeholders that were inadequately compensated for their losses, to ensure that all companies have carried through an environmental impact assessment and to make additional significant long term contributions to the conservation of key biodiversity areas or protected areas negatively affected by the conversion activities.