FSC Implements Measures to Strengthen Social Engagement and Standard-Setting Processes

FSC Implements Measures to Strengthen Social Engagement and Standard-Setting Processes

(Credit: Canva Pro)

by | Feb 17, 2023

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FSC Implements Measures to Strengthen Social Engagement and Standard-Setting Processes

(Credit: Canva Pro)

To obtain Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, organizations must demonstrate their commitment to conserving and restoring managed forests, including plantations. Additionally, companies and their associated groups seeking FSC affiliation must prove that they are not engaged in the conversion of natural forests and ecosystems, whether for timber, pulp, or other forest-risk commodities like palm oil.

The world has undergone significant changes since FSC’s establishment in 1994, with continued pressures on global ecosystems from conversion and increased awareness of the need to promote forest conservation and restoration, and to address climate change and biodiversity loss.

FSC’s Principles and Criteria exclude plantations resulting from the conversion of natural forests after 1994, which has often led to poor management and reduced access to ecosystem services for local communities while neglecting biodiversity. However, FSC did not have any incentives or rules to engage with organizations managing these areas to improve the situation. In many places in the global south, conversion levels have been high in recent decades due to economic development, including the establishment of plantations, while levels have been low in the global north where plantation establishment began much earlier.

As a result, some view FSC’s policy as unbalanced and not equally serving all regions.

These requirements stem from the 2009 Policy for Association (PfA), which establishes limits for forest conversion and outlines five other activities that could lead to disassociation. By using the PfA, FSC has the authority to remove companies and their associated groups from the FSC system if they engage in any of the prohibited activities, regardless of whether their operations are certified or not.

Motions 37 & 45

In order to implement the new Policy to Address Conversion, modifications to FSC’s Principles and Criteria had to be agreed upon by its members. Motion 37, proposed for the 2022 General Assembly, aimed to make several changes including, but not limited to, adjusting the cutoff date for excluding converted plantations from FSC certification from November 1994 to December 2020, expanding the definition of conversion to include HCV areas, mandating the remediation of past conversion-related damages, and broadening the definition of restoration/ecological restoration.

The FSC membership engaged in a heated debate about the level of strictness of the FSC Remedy Framework, while still maintaining the motivation to seek association or certification. As a result, Motion 45 was proposed, which demanded specific modifications to strengthen and enhance the Conversion and Remedy Package, in order to safeguard FSC’s reputation, before its implementation.

The Results

Motion 37 was approved by 83% of FSC’s members at the General Assembly in Bali, Indonesia in October 2022. This motion requires amendments to FSC’s Principles and Criteria to address conversion, resulting in a new conversion cut-off date of 31 December 2020. A new system will also be implemented to provide a remedy for social and environmental damage on land converted between 1 December 1994 and 31 December 2020.

Furthermore, Motion 45 was also approved, with 74% of FSC’s membership voting in favor of changes to be made to the final version of the FSC Remedy Framework.

Moving Forward

Millions of hectares of degraded forestland can be restored and managed in a responsible manner through the adoption of the FSC Principles and Criteria, according to certification standards. Ecological restoration measures can bring converted areas back to a state closer to their natural form, while the FSC remedy pathway allows forest-dependent people to access non-judicial routes to remedy and receive financial and non-financial compensation for social harms caused by conversion.

The new cut-off date of December 31, 2020, means that FSC will not certify any land that has been converted from natural forests or where there has been destruction of High Conservation Values after this date. Companies seeking to associate with FSC after being found guilty of unacceptable activities in the past must go through the standardized remedy process, with additional requirements in the new Remedy Framework becoming effective from mid-2023.

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