The FSC responds to its critics
The FSC responds to its critics
An interview with Nina Haase, FSC International Communications Manager
Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com
April 7, 2008
Last month, Mongabay.com reported on recent and various criticisms of the FSC (the Forest Stewardship Council). The FSC is an international organization that certifies forest products which, according to their standards, have been harvested in an environmentally-sustainable and socially-responsible manner.
The article cited criticism from the World Rainforest Movement, which called a recent decision by the FSC to certify monoculture eucalyptus plantations in Brazil a “death certificate” for the organization, and Ecological Internet, which launched a campaign protesting the FSC and its many large NGO supporters for certifying old-growth logging. Other concerns included the recent news of companies falsely claiming that their products had been FSC certified, problems with an Asia Pulp & Paper concession in Sumatra, and the withdrawal of a Swedish NGO from the FSC board stating that the “FSC functions badly in Sweden”.
Response to the article was significant. It was picked up by the Ecological Internet’s email campaign and was mentioned on numerous environmental web sites and blogs. At the time of the publication, the FSC had not responded to requests for comments. But in the following interview, FSC International Communications Manager Nina Haase answers each criticism separately and addresses several other issues, such as the FSC and climate change, the organization’s monitoring capabilities, and its adaptation to new environmental concerns. Ultimately she responds to the big question raised by critics: is the FSC stamp still credible?
“The need for timber resources is growing and predicted to continue to do so,” Hasse told Mongabay, “some [of our critics] are concerned about plantation forests, others about logging in natural forests. At FSC we understand the concerns and crucial importance of these issues extremely well. But we are also realistic enough to understand that faced with massive demand for timber resources, neither are going to stop. So based on the fact that FSC has developed the highest and most widely supported social and environmental standards, we engage to make sure this happens in the best and most sustainable way possible.”
Addressing the major criticisms one by one, Hasse says that in regards to the certification of products from monoculture plantations the “FSC certified plantations do not replace natural forests” and the “FSC does not support conversion of natural forests to plantations or other land uses.” She adds that, “Many of FSC certified plantations actually contribute to the restoration of natural forests, by either allowing or actively promoting regeneration of natural forests in sensitive areas such as riparian zones.”
As for certifying forest products from old-growth logging, Haase argues that FSC certified logging — even old-growth logging — can under certain circumstances help preserve forests by making the ecosystem-at-large worth something. The FSC believes that one way to ensure long-term conservation is to use the very market forces behind most forest’s destruction to work in the forest’s favor, helping to keep the areas in question free from greater threats like deforestation for agriculture, ranching, plantations, or illegal logging.
“A key factor behind the threats faced by natural forests is their lack of economic value, as seen by society at large. The extraordinary social and ecological value of forests in comparison to other land uses is often not considered. In other words, forests are often converted to other land uses, which lack many of the social and environmental values of forests but promise higher economic returns. FSC uses certification to engage market dynamics in driving recognition for forests at large and in improving social and environmental standards in forest management practices worldwide. FSC standards ensure that these forests maintain the values and benefits they provide to society. By providing a market differentiation mechanism, FSC enables responsible forest managers to capture more value from their forests, allowing them to compete with pressures from other land uses and the artificially low prices caused by predatory and illegal logging.” Haase adds that the “FSC also recognizes that it is not a panacea; FSC is one tool among others that can be more or less effective depending on the circumstances.”
Addressing the environmental critics of FSC, Hasse, argues that the organization has to find solutions that both work and can be supported by businesses as well as social and environmental interests. On both sides of the spectrum, the FSC sees at times attempts to abuse or instrumentalize the FSC.
“We regret, that some NGOs have chosen to use FSC as a tool for publicity for their campaigns instead of engaging with FSC and working through the FSC system for better forest management of the world’s forests.”
We do not see the FSC as “the silver bullet to save the world’s forest”, but simply one tool of a wide variety of solutions for the conservation of the world’s great forests, says Hasse. As for those who protest the FSC’s actions, she believes the best way is to address the FSC directly: “If a stakeholder, say an environmental NGO, is concerned about how a specific certified forest or a forest in the process of certification is managed, we suggest to contact the forest manager, the certification body and/or the FSC National Initiative first to explain their concerns . Many issues relating to specific operations are best solved closest to the operation. If the explanation received at this level is not satisfactory, there are options to take the issue to the next level. With regards to more general concerns, the FSC is an open, transparent and inclusive system set up so that everybody interested in improving the management of the world’s forests can participate and contribute. This of course also extends to critical observations. The invitation to engage and present the FSC with constructive feed-back has been made many times already. And I would like to repeat it here again.”
In the following April 2008 interview, Nina Haase discussed the criticism of the FSC in-depth and expounded on the organizations current place in the larger mission to conserve forests worldwide.
ON THE CRITICISM OF FSC’S CERTIFICATION OF VERACEL’S MONOCULTURE EUCALYPTUS PLATANTIONS
Mongabay: SGS, an FSC accredited certification body, granted FSC certification to eucalyptus plantations in Brazil. The World Rainforest Movement has called this certification decision a “death certificate” for the FSC, adding that the credibility of the FSC is ruined by the decision. How does the FSC respond?
Nina Haase: FSC rules and procedures have been developed through strong multi-stakeholder processes, and are supported and endorsed by social, environmental and economic constituents in the Global South and Global North alike. We have responded following the set FSC rules and procedures for such cases.
Please let me add that it is important to remember that FSC must keep its credibility with consumer, environmental and social groups, as well as businesses that have to implement the FSC system. Besides maintaining the highest social and environmental standards in forestry, this also means being a predictable partner who plays by the rules and follows set and agreed to procedures.
In this particular case Accreditation Services International (ASI), the body responsible for FSC’s accreditation program, scheduled an onsite audit to verify that SGS and Veracel are in full compliance with all FSC requirements. The surveillance audit of SGS at the Veracel plantations in Bahia, Brazil took place last week, 26-28 March 2008.
The ASI team consisted of Hubert de Bonafos (Managing Director, ASI, and audit leader) and Andre de Freitas (Head of Operations, FSC International), and observers Chris van Dam (social expert and former member of the FSC Board of Directors) and Rubens Gomes (Chairman of the Brazilian FSC National Initiative).
Detailed information will be made available 5-6 weeks after the audit, once the audit report is finalized. Again, there are set and agreed rules and procedures that detail what the next steps will be depending on the audit’s findings.
Mongabay: Considering that monoculture plantations support less biodiversity and store less carbon than the forests they replace, how are monoculture plantations sustainable?
Nina Haase: FSC certified plantations do not replace natural forests. FSC does not support conversion of natural forests to plantations or other land uses. Only plantations established before the FSC Principles and Criteria were agreed to in 1994, or established on degraded lands (reforestation) or substituting agricultural uses can be certified to FSC standards.
Many of FSC certified plantations actually contribute to the restoration of natural forests, by either allowing or actively promoting regeneration of natural forests in sensitive areas such as riparian zones.
Mongabay: Under pressure from NGOs is the FSC currently re-examining its certification of Veracel’s wood products?
Nina Haase: As stated in question 1 above, FSC has set rules and procedures that it follows. Listening to and taking stakeholder concerns seriously is one of the pillars of the FSC system. This means checking on the ground the issues raised by stakeholders. As you can imagine for a system built and supported by and an organization led by equal voice and power by environmental, social and business representatives — it is crucial to listen and be transparent and a to remain a predictable partner who play by the jointly agreed rules.
Please find some further background on the workings of the FSC system below:
FSC is the only global forest management certification system that requires regular yearly controls of each forest management operation certified to its standards. FSC accredited certification bodies certify and audit each individual forest management operation.
Photo by Michael Spencer / (c) FSC
If the forest management is in full compliance with FSC requirements, the FSC certificate is awarded. If the forest management is not fully compliant pre-conditions are noted which have to be fulfilled before the FSC certificate can be awarded. If minor non-compliances are noted the certificate can be issued with conditions that have to be met within a clearly determined timeframe.
FSC accredited certification bodies audit each FSC certificate at least once a year. If during these audits the certification body finds that a company has non compliances with FSC requirements Corrective Action Requests (CAR) are issued and the company is required to make the prescribed changes within a given timeframe or else it will loose its FSC certificate. Depending on the seriousness of the infringement the timeline can go from one year for minor administrative infringements to three months or less, or even suspension, for major infringements.
FSC is the only global forest management certification system with an integrated accreditation program that systematically controls its certification bodies. Before being able to certify according to FSC standards, certification bodies have to gain FSC accreditation. To do this, certifiers have to comply with an extensive set of rules.
Compliance with these rules and procedures is verified by ASI (the company managing FSC’s accreditation program) through office audits and the witnessing of one trial audit in the field prior to gaining FSC accreditation. One such requirement is that all FSC accredited certification bodies have to be in compliance with relevant international ISO standard (ISO/IEC Guide 65: 1996 (E)).
Every year ASI controls the continued implementation of FSC rules and procedures through at least office and field audits for each FSC accredited certification body. The exact number and distribution of ASI surveillance audits is calculated based on ASI’s sampling procedure taking into account complex settings (geographic areas, policies or products that carry increased risk) and the number of FSC certificates handled by a FSC accredited certification body.
Summaries of ASI surveillance audits are publicly available on the ASI web site at: www.accreditation-services.com . If an FSC accredited certification body is found to not fully comply with FSC rules and procedures, corrective action requests are raised. These have to be fulfilled within a certain time frame. Depending on the seriousness of the infringement the timeline can go from one year for minor administrative infringements to three months or less, or even suspension, for major infringements. If the certification body fails to comply with FSC requirements within the given time the certification body will be suspended and then loose its FSC accreditation if the suspension is not lifter after one year.
ON ECOLOGICAL INTERNET’S PROTEST REGARDING OLD-GROWTH LOGGING
Mongabay: A recent e-mail campaign from Ecological Internet has protested the FSC and many of its biggest supporters because the FSC certifies logging in primary forests. How does the FSC respond to these charges?
Nina Haase: FSC is very aware of the pressure that primary forests face throughout the world. Much of the remaining natural forests still suffer from illegal exploitation, poor management and conversion to other land uses, commonly resulting in severe degradation or complete destruction. In fact, these same concerns led to the establishment of FSC almost 15 years ago.
FSC General Assembly. Copyright FSC / Nowack.
A key factor behind the threats faced by natural forests is their lack of economic value, as seen by society at large. The extraordinary social and ecological value of forests in comparison to other land uses is often not considered. In other words, forests are often converted to other land uses, which lack many of the social and environmental values of forests but promise higher economic returns.
FSC uses certification to engage market dynamics in driving recognition for forests at large and in improving social and environmental standards in forest management practices worldwide. FSC standards ensure that these forests maintain the values and benefits they provide to society. By providing a market differentiation mechanism, FSC enables responsible forest managers to capture more value from their forests, allowing them to compete with pressures from other land uses and the artificially low prices caused by predatory and illegal logging.
Demand for forest products around the world will not only continue but also accelerate. Wherever and whenever decisions are taken to manage forests, FSC attempts to influence and convince forest managers to implement responsible social and environmental practices, including in primary natural forests and plantations.
The quickly growing demand for forest products worldwide will inevitably result in parts of natural forests being used for production purposes. It is FSC’s mission to help ensure that not only economic considerations, but equally social and environmental concerns are taken into account whenever forests are managed. FSC does not promote exploration of forests but equitable incorporation of social and environmental considerations when this happens.
Natural forests in comparison to semi-natural forests or plantations often provide a unique set of social and environmental attributes. When decisions are taken by societies, industries or communities to further explore natural forests for economic purposes, we feel that it is particularly important that the FSC standards are met. To withdraw from applying the FSC standards to logging in natural forests, would not end further exploration of natural forests, but only sacrifice a tool to promote equitable consideration of social and environmental issues in forestry, where it matters most. It is in natural forests where FSC standards can result in substantial social and environmental improvements and ultimately support the conservation and long-term maintenance of these forests.
FSC works with its partners to enforce the implementation of such standards in FSC certified areas which includes over 50 million ha of natural forest. Under FSC certification civil and indigenous rights are respected, areas of high social and environmental conservation value are maintained or enhanced, forests are not converted, highly hazardous pesticides and genetically modified trees are prohibited, and harvesting must meet national laws and international treaties. In fact, FSC developed the concept of High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) specifically to recognize socially and environmentally valuable areas.
FSC is recognized as the most credible system in forest management certification and is widely regarded as one of the most important initiatives of the last decade to promote better forest management worldwide. However, it is only part of the solution for the conservation of natural forests and FSC believes that a full set of different complementary conservation strategies is necessary to protect and maintain the world’s forests.
Also, there have been powerful examples showing how FSC certification has helped protect highly threatened natural forests. One example is a recent study published by the Rainforest Alliance, which shows how FSC forest management certification has proven to conserve the rainforest more effectively than strict protection in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve. You can find the full story on-line at: www.fsc.org under headline news.
For further information:
Mongabay: Many would argue that because of worsening climate change and a looming mass extinction old-growth logging can no longer be considered environmentally sustainable, how does the FSC respond?
Nina Haase: I believe this question has been largely answered with my answer to the last question. However, please let me add the following — maybe somewhat pointed point.
The need for timber resources is growing and predicted to continue to do so. Some are concerned about plantation forests, others about logging in natural forests. At FSC we understand the concerns and crucial importance of these issues extremely well. But we are also realistic enough to understand that faced with massive demand for timber resources, neither are going to stop. So based on the fact that FSC has developed the highest and most widely supported social and environmental standards, we engage to make sure this happens in the best and most sustainable way possible.
We regret, that some small, single-issue NGOs who campaign either against logging in old-growth forests or plantations, have chosen to use FSC as a tool for publicity for their campaigns instead of engaging with FSC and working through the FSC system for better forest management of the world’s forests.
FSC certification is widely regarded as one of the most important initiatives of the last decade to promote responsible forest management worldwide. Why is this and what prior efforts have been made?
Photograph by Juan Carlos Reyes García / (c) FSC
Concerns and large-scale public debates about the state of world’s forests escalated globally in the 1980’s and led to a gridlock between different stakeholders fighting about environmental, social and economic interests. Initiatives from governments and international organizations did not succeed in curbing forest destruction worldwide and the need to substantially improve forest management practices persisted.
In the late 1980’s, tropical timber boycotts proclaiming to save the last tropical forests, not only failed, but worse, caused opposite effects in many cases. Conversion of forests to more economical land uses continued and in some cases accelerated.
The clear need for an effective mechanism to improve forest management and conservation worldwide was further emphasized in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. The World Summit in Rio de Janeiro agreed that progress towards sustainable development is the shared responsibility of social, environmental and economic interests although no legally binding commitments were agreed.
Disillusioned by the continuous failure of international negotiations, progressive forest industries, social groups and environmental organizations came together to develop an alternative solution. Rather than boycotting poor practices, they wanted to use market forces to promote socially beneficial, environmentally appropriate and economically viable forest management.
For the first time, leading social, environmental and economic players from the Global South and Global North joined in a global process with equal and equitable voices, decision-making powers and responsibilities and founded FSC. To this day, FSC provides a platform for these different interest groups to work together in a dynamic environment where each and every person has a voice and an equal say.
Since its inception countless stakeholders around the world have worked with the FSC in its equitable participatory processes in support of responsible forest management. However, also since its early days, FSC was often criticized by conservative industries which did not believe in sharing decision-making with social and environmental stakeholders. Much like conservative industries, some environmental stakeholders believe that confrontational campaigns are a more appropriate conservation tool than equitable participatory solutions-oriented approaches. FSC will continue to try to engage conservative industries as well as confrontational NGOs in its approach.
This is not to say that FSC is the silver bullet to save the world’s forest. But we believe that FSC is part of a set of solutions for the conservation of natural forests and that a full set of different complementary conservation strategies are necessary to protect and maintain the world’s forests.
Mongabay: Has the FSC heard its large NGO supporters regarding the recent protest (i.e. Greenpeace, WWF, Rainforest Action Network, NRDC, Forest Ethics, Friends of the Earth and the Rainforest Alliance)?
Nina Haase: Yes we maintain a lively and close contact and exchange with FSC members and non-members. Despite the fact that some were directly targeted as well during the recent campaign and others were incorrectly said to be leaving FSC, all our large NGO supporters maintain their support for FSC.
FSC’s environmental members — mostly environmental NGOs have also decided to meet amongst themselves and with FSC in June this year, to prepare for the upcoming FSC General Assembly at the end of this year.
This is important as FSC members meet at least every three years to a General Assembly. The General Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the FSC. The overarching FSC Principles and Criteria were adopted by the FSC membership and can only be changed or amended by a vote of the FSC membership. It is the same with other important strategic issues — such as for example in determining FSC’s role with regards to Climate Change mitigation.
ON CERTIFICATION AND MONITORING
Mongabay: According to FSC what is ‘responsible forest management?’
Nina Haase: FSC’s 10 Principles and Criteria describe how the forests have to be managed in order to gain FSC certification. Essentially this defines FSC’s version of socially and environmentally responsible forest management.
This includes managerial aspects as well as the highest environmental and social requirements in the industry.
Here are some examples of what the FSC Principles and Criteria require. Many of the points listed below will appear almost basic — but unfortunately in many places, even these basic requirements are not fulfilled. This is where FSC certification can make the biggest positive impact.
The full FSC Principles and Criteria are available on-line at: www.fsc.org
Mongabay: How does the FSC handle situations where its certification is brought into question by various environmental groups and NGOs? Is there a review process in place for contentious certifications?
Nina Haase: Absolutely. FSC has an official Complaints and Disputes Procedure which is designed to help stakeholders make their concerns known and to find the best way of resolving complaints.
This can be resolved on different levels within the FSC system and we encourage people to take a stepwise approach and hope that most complaints can be resolved in this way. FSC developed a fact sheet that explains this procedure very well. You can find this at http://www.fsc.org/en/whats_new/news/fact_sheets. This procedure is currently being revised to improve its application.
If a stakeholder, say an environmental NGO, is concerned about how a certified forest or a forest in the process of certification is managed, they should contact the forest manager, the certification body and/or the FSC National Initiative. They should explain their concerns, listen to the explanation and try to come to a solution. This is often the fastest and easiest way to solve a problem.
If a certificate holder is not fully compliant, they are required to make the prescribed changes within a given timeframe or else it will loose its FSC certificate. This could be a temporary suspension where it cannot trade with the FSC claim, or immediate termination depending on the severity of non-compliance.
If a stakeholder still has concerns, this could be related to the certification audit itself (i.e. the process in which a forest was certified or the activities of a certification body) or the quality of FSC’s standards.
In the former case, the stakeholder should file a complaint directly to the certification body. In the later case, the complaint should be filed to the FSC National Initiative who developed the standards. FSC standards are reviewed every 5 years so complaints can feed into the standards review consultation process.
If the stakeholder is concerned with the quality of an FSC accredited certification body, they should contact Accreditation Services International (ASI) who is managing FSC’s accreditation program. This often leads to additional audits of certification bodies by ASI to ensure that they are compliant with FSC’s standards.
If the certification body is not fully compliant, they are required to make the prescribed changes within a given timeframe or else it will loose its FSC accreditation. This could be a temporary suspension resulting in the suspension of all certificates it has issued and a ban to make any new contracts, or the immediate loss of FSC accredited status. This depends on the severity of their non-compliance.
All FSC certified forest operations, certification bodies and National Initiatives have a system for managing and responding to complaints. These are in line with FSC and ISO standards.
The contact details for certification bodies and FSC national initiatives can be found at www.fsc.org and ASI at www.accreditation-services.com.
Mongabay: Considering the amount of illegal logging that occurs in tropical nations, how does the FSC make certain that it is not unwillingly certifying illegal logging?
Nina Haase: Principle 1 requires compliance with all applicable laws and is verified by certification bodies. This and the accreditation control mechanisms ensure that FSC is not unwillingly certifying illegal logging.
Furthermore, we are constantly monitoring our performance and develop the FSC system further to deal with particular difficult or new issues.
Mongabay: What monitoring tools (technologies, personnel etc.) does the FSC use to track logging through the supply chains?
Nina Haase: What FSC tracks through the supply chain is FSC certified timber. This is called Chain of Custody certification. It is a paper based system based on invoices. This is checked through the same system as FSC forest management: FSC accredited certification bodies perform audits based on their results the FSC certificate is issued or not. All FSC chain of custody certified operations are controlled at least once a year.
Mongabay: Considering worsening environmental issues (climate change, loss of biodiversity, desertification, water supply, etc.) and increasing public awareness of these issues, is the FSC’s certification process adapting quickly enough?
Nina Haase: FSC is working with its partners to address new issues as quickly as possible. The broad democratic consensus on which FSC is built and which ultimately is its unique strength also slows it down. Consultations and democratic processes are often time intensive, but we strongly believe and stand by them as it is crucial that we find solutions that can be supported by all of our stakeholders: economic, social and environmental interests as well as those in the lesser developed economic south and the more prosperous economic north, primarily timber producing and timber products consuming countries.
Mongabay: What is currently being done to improve the FSC and its certifying process?
Nina Haase: We constantly work to improve and develop the FSC system further. In these efforts, comments and feed-back from our members, supporters and critics are incorporated and addressed.
FSC has implemented some major reforms recently. I would like to highlight two: FSC has revised its audit procedures to allow ASI to perform spot audits. This sharpens the teeth of the FSC system as it allows us to react faster and with more force.
Also, we are currently in the last phases of public consultations on a so-called ‘policy of association’ which sets out criteria that companies have to fulfill before they can apply for FSC certification. The aim of this policy is to drastically reduce the likelihood of FSC being misused by companies who only have parts of their operations certified to FSC standards.
Other ongoing initiatives to improve the system is a review of the FSC Principles and Criteria, the development of international generic indicators, the revision of the accreditation standards, the development of a new dispute resolution process, the increased of number of audits and auditors working for ASI, the development of a new training program for auditors to ensure more consistency in audits, the installment and development of information systems that will allow us to faster and more efficiently detect inconsistencies and support monitoring and evaluation systems.
ON THE FSC AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Mongabay: Having reviewed your ‘Principles and Criteria’ document I find no mention of climate change. Currently, how important is climate change in factoring FSC’s certification?
Nina Haase: FSC certification supports the conservation and long-term maintenance of forests so that they are permanently maintained and managed in a socially and environmentally responsible way. FSC certified timber does not include raw material from damaging forestry practices or forest conversion which lead to carbon emissions from deforestation, forest degradation and forest fires.
Nevertheless FSC does not claim that certification to its standards can offset carbon emissions. Furthermore, to the best of FSC’s knowledge, there are no companies or FSC initiatives at present making such claims.
The FSC Board of Directors, with support from FSC staff, is currently debating the role FSC will play in relation to the global climate debate including the possible role of forests in carbon sequestration. The FSC Global Strategy, available at our website and published in December 2008, already provides some insight on this issue.
Mongabay: Does the FSC ever require logging companies to participate in large-scale reforestation programs to off-set their emissions?
Nina Haase: No it doesn’t. Nor does FSC have any certification standards or requirements for this. We have not yet seen information that is conclusive on this issue and it might not be accurate to label forest management as carbon emitters.
ON THE FSC’S CREDIBILITY
Mongabay: The FSC has been facing difficulties in its national chapters as well. What is the FSC’s response to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) recent decision to pull its support of the FSC?
Nina Haase: Actually the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation has NOT withdrawn their support for FSC. They are still FSC members and support FSC in its mission. They have however withdrawn from the FSC Sweden Board of Directors.
Mongabay: A recent report from the EIA and Tekepak showed that some companies misuse the FSC stamp of approval, for example Kybotech Ltd. has admitted to lying when it stated to consumers that all of its products are FSC certified. What monitoring programs are in place to make certain that companies do not mislead consumers about FSC certification?
Nina Haase: I already mentioned the work that ASI is doing in a previous question (See: What is currently being done to improve the FSC and its certifying process?). Furthermore, FSC has created in 2007 a new company, called FSC Global Development, which is better structured to follow up on trademark abuse, including legal action if necessary.
FSC is launching an improved on-line Certificate Search which will include more information on certificates and certified products. This is FSC’s central database. It is the only place with up to date information on FSC certificates – www.fsc-info.org. This is where you check the validity of the certificate number. This will soon include a detailed list of FSC certified products offered by the certificate holder given the scope of their certificate. All of this information is uploaded by the certification body to ensure credible and correct information is presented.
Mongabay: Does the FSC feel that its credibility is currently in trouble? If so how does the organization propose to regain its credibility?
Nina Haase: I think the answers to the previous questions largely answer this one, but please let me ad the following.
At FSC take every controversial certification very seriously and work hard to rectify and learn from them to further improve the FSC system. However, this should not be misunderstood to mean that the FSC system is not working and the FSC label is no longer a real and trustworthy sustainable alternative for consumers wanting to make the right choice.
In this context it is important to know that the problematic certificates remain very isolated incidences. This is not to be complacent about problematic certificates, but it is important to keep the scale of the issue in perspective.
Feedback from stakeholder groups and the outcome of research into the causes for controversial certificates continuously contributes to our efforts to further strengthen and improve the system.
Also, all assements of certification schemes equally show the FSC system as the strongest in forest management and the FSC standards the highest social and environmental requirements on the market. Several studies have also confirmed FSC’s positive impact on the ground. This is not to mean that FSC is perfect, but to keep things in perspective.
Mongabay: Finally, why should consumers trust that the FSC stamp still means the product was harvested in a sustainable manner without negatively affecting biodiversity, local communities, and global climate change?
Nina Haase: The FSC standards include managerial aspects as well as the highest environmental and social requirements in the industry. FSC certified forests are managed to ensure future timber and non-timber forest product supplies while protecting the environment and the lives of forest-dependent peoples. As I mentioned before these are some of the examples of FSC forest management requirements (the full FSC Principles and Criteria are available on-line at: www.fsc.org):
Many of the points listed appear almost basic — but unfortunately in many places, even these basic requirements are not fulfilled. This is where FSC certification can make the biggest positive impact.
The FSC Chain of Custody traces forest products through the supply chain to the end-consumer. You can check the validity of the certificate at www.fsc-info.org and will soon to include a more detailed list of FSC certified products offered by the certificate holder given the scope of their certificate.
FSC certification is widely regarded as one of the most important initiatives of the last decade to promote responsible forest management worldwide. It is the only internationally recognized standard setting organization for responsible forest management supported equally by environmental organizations and social groups as well as the corporate sector. Many researches and numerous governments also support FSC. For testimonials from key stakeholders and further information as to why they support FSC you can visit www.whyfsc.org.
We say choose products from FSC certified forests and this will support the conservation of forests and wildlife and help people lead better lives!