Global Witness submitted a complaint against VRG’s rubber plantations, alleging that they have significant negative impacts on the environment and the livelihood of local communities in Laos and Cambodia.
An independent complaints panel produced the Complaints Panel Evaluation Report. The FSC Board of Directors used this report which outlined the multiple violations of the Policy for Association requiring FSC to disassociate from VRG. It was found that VRG was either directly or indirectly involved in multiple unacceptable activities.
FSC approves the methodology developed by PBN for the Environmental Baseline Analysis of VRG, with the following objectives:
1. To quantify the forest conversion and conduct a mapping exercise using GIS and remote sensing methodologies;
2. To conduct an inventory and mapping of environmental impacted areas resulting from forest conversion activities, through a retrospective assessment of loss, damage and/or destruction of High Conservation Value (HCV) forests (HCVs 1-4).
These objectives correspond to Tasks 1 and 2 mentioned below.
FSC approves Preferred by Nature (PBN) as the independent consultancy appointed for the development of the following activities under the scope of the FSC Roadmap process for VRG:
- Task 1: A quantification of the total conversion (forest cover change) resulting from the establishment of the VRG’s plantations.
- Task 2: An inventory and mapping of the past and current status in all impact areas (areas where environmental impacts have been caused by the conversion activities) of the company group and its supply partners.
- Task 3: A landscape-level conservation & restoration plan for VRG, identifying and mapping the selected areas to be restored and conserved in the context of the roadmap process, as to remedy the past impact of the company group and its wood suppliers.
VRG follows a transparent recruitment process to identify an independent consultancy for the implementation of the initial action areas of the roadmap process for VRG, as stipulated by FSC.
FSC and VRG hold a meeting where FSC presents the initial action areas of the FSC roadmap for VRG. These initial action areas are actions and measures under the FSC framework of the roadmap process for VRG. VRG is expected to initiate implementing action immediately.
The initial action areas FSC expects VRG to implement include:
- a third-party geographic information system (GIS) analysis for the quantification of forest conversion realized in Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam due to the establishment of VRG’s economic land concessions;
- a third-party mapping and inventory of the impacted areas (where both social and environmental impacts, as well as the rights of rightsholders are qualified and mapped);
- the development of a landscape-level conservation and restoration plan of high conservation values (HCVs) and natural forests.
FSC engages in a formal dialogue with VRG to define the FSC roadmap process for VRG.
The main purpose of this roadmap process is to correct the past activities of VRG which were not in line with FSC’s Policy for Association, and remedy any environmental and social impacts related to these and prevent the occurrence of any similar activities.
FSC completes assessment into VRG's readiness to implement changes to make it FSC-compliant. The readiness assessment showed clear evidence of VRG top management’s commit-ment towards FSC and as such FSC will now begin development of the ‘roadmap’ through a structured, transparent and inclusive stakeholder engagement process. Read the full statement here.
FSC agrees to enter a formal dialogue with VRG on the process of beginning a roadmap to end disassociation. FSC begins assessment of VRG to determine its readiness for entering a Roadmap process.
FSC Board of Directors takes the final decision to disassociate from VRG, FSC Board of Directors also agrees on the set of conditions that if fulfilled by VRG will be grounds for considering an end to the disassociation.
Complaints panel submits the Complaints Panel Evaluation Report, including the public version of the report. The panel recommends disassociation from VRG and all its subsidiaries.
Complaints Panel established and evaluation begins.
Global Witness submits complaint against Vietnam Rubber Group to FSC International.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) Case
Did the unacceptable activities VRG was found to be involved in take place in FSC-certified forest operations?
The unacceptable activities took place in non FSC-certified forest operations in Cambodia.
What were the main social impacts of the unacceptable activities VRG was involved in?
The activities of the company have caused significant suffering to many hundreds, or thousands, of people both directly, and indirectly, through depriving them of their land rights.
The panel was informed that more than 1,000 families were evicted from their land, including numerous disabled veterans and Cham minority people.
There is evidence that local residents were deprived of their rights to access and use forest resources, and that local communities, in particular Indigenous Peoples, have been deprived of their traditional land rights and properties. One suggested reason for the great haste in land capture is to prevent these communities from completing their land registration.
Although there is proof that compensation was given to communities in some cases, there is also evidence that compensation was not given in many other cases (for example, compensation for the loss of resin trees). In those cases where compensation was paid, the compensation given was nowhere near the timber value, which was worth approximately ten times what was paid.
Additionally, villagers who were not interested in the sale of their forest land were not offered an alternative, and had no option other than to accept unrepresentative compensations.
The employment offered by the company as justification for its presence was largely seasonal, unskilled and poorly paid, leaving communities without access to a sustainable source of income.
What were the main environmental impacts of the unacceptable activities VRG was involved in?
The areas of evergreen forest targeted by VRG companies for conversion do, in many cases, hold significant amounts of biodiversity, including many rare species.
Some of the ELCs granted to VRG for the plantation of rubber, which were fully converted, were protected areas considered as key to the conservation of the biodiversity of the region.
For example, the Mekong Basin (located in South-East Asia) has recently been identified by WWF as one of the most significant deforestation fronts in the world. The major deforestation risk in the area is identified as conversion to large scale agriculture.
This ELC is located in the Seima Protection Forest and Biodiversity Conservation Area. This protected area is considered an Important Bird Area (IBA), and overlaps with a conservation corridor for the endemism of mammals, birds and reptiles.
These forests were not significantly degraded in terms of their ecological functioning as witnessed by the large fauna still present in them.
What were the main economic impacts of the unacceptable activities VRG was involved in?
The failure of the company to pay full royalties for trees removed during conversion has deprived the government of Cambodia of millions of dollars of revenue.