BUSINESS

The Rainforest Alliance reaches a legal settlement with Resolute Forest Products

02/04/2015 02:43 EST | Updated 04/06/2015 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - Resolute Forest Products has reached a truce with the Rainforest Alliance, a third-party group that conducts audits of compliance with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards.

The Montreal-based company settled a lawsuit it filed in May that sought $400,000 in damages over audits of its forests in Northern Ontario.

Resolute spokesman Seth Kursman declined to say if any money will be paid as part of the deal, but said the company is pleased a new independent audit will be completed.

The company (TSX:RFP) claimed last year's audits that resulted in the suspension of FSC certificates in two forests were biased interpretations that contained errors and omissions.

Under terms of the settlement, a new independent audit team will conduct a fresh review of the Black Spruce-Dog River Matawin forest within six months. A summary of the report findings will be released publicly, unlike those of the contested audits that have been sealed by an Ontario court judge.

An audit won't be conducted on the Caribou Forest because its FSC certificate expired last month.

Kursman said the forests are certified under other regimes, but said FSC is required by some customers.

"The more certifications you can have — and to differentiate yourself and meet the requirements of various companies — we're certainly going to work to do that," he said.

The Rainforest Alliance, a New York-based agency that is the largest of its type in the world, has said the lawsuit was a first by an FSC certificate holder.

Environmental critics have said the lawsuit risked causing a chill among those who audit global forest management.

Greenpeace said Resolute should spent time on resolving its forestry issues instead of using legal tactics to bury the original audit from public scrutiny,

"A transparent company with nothing to hide would not hesitate to release the audit. The public have the right to know what is happening in their forests," it said in a news release.