Solutions for Small-Scale and Community Forests

Small-scale and community forests are at the heart of FSC. The specific challenges that these groups face are not only linked to the requirements of FSC certification, which are sometimes too complex or costly for them, but also to access markets that value sustainability. To rise to these challenges, we are continuously working on increasing our impact and making the FSC system more attractive to these stakeholders under the Community and Family Forests program.

Community and Family Forests Program
FSC Smallholder and Communities
FSC Denmark

One size doesn’t fit all

Small-scale and community forests have specific characteristics, such as land size, ownership or internal governance that require tailor made solutions. Finding globally relevant and locally adaptable policy and market tools and solutions has been our goal for over 25 years. We have learned to embrace the complex barriers and challenges facing these groups, and have created a series of policy and market tools aimed towards increasing uptake of FSC certification as well as adding benefit for these certificate holders. 

We have divided our work into three distinct work streams; enablers, market solutions and policy solutions. These are all meant to complement each other to help increase uptake and benefit of FSC certification of small-scale and community forests. 

Work Streams

work for us


Engage, communicate, train and fundraise.

Congolese forest

Normative Framework

We have developed normative documents specifically with small-scale and community forests in mind. These are explained in detail below. But these aren't the only relevant normative processes. 

market development

Market Development

Getting certified doesn't help if there is no profitable market for the products, or ways for small-scale forest owners and communities to connect to available markets. This is why we are exploring value chains...

Certification Solutions

We understand that getting certified can be a complicated and difficult process and it can be hard to know where even to begin. First, it is helpful to identify the following before diving into the certification solutions we have built:

Finding Applicable FSC Standards and Procedures

To make FSC policy or certification solutions more relevant and adaptable to small-scale and community operations, we have worked on three international normative documents. One is the Group Standard, which allows for smaller operations to work together in a "group" and share certification costs. To make National Forest Stewardship Standards relevant for smaller operations, FSC has created criteria that can be incorporated to these national standards, called "small and low intensity forest criteria (SLIMF)." Currently, we are working on developing an innovative procedure aimed at allowing for operations to commit to sustainability and conform with a subset of criteria in a step-wise approach, called to Continuous Improvement Procedure. 

All can be used together and can complement certification requirements. Learn more and explore them by clicking the links below:

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Group Certification

FSC has developed a Group Standard to allow for organizations to come together and form a single "group" and share the costs. 

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Continuous Improvement Procedure

Currently under development, this procedure will allow for a stepwise approach to certification. 

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Adapting National Standards

FSC has developed small and low-intensity forest (SLIMF) criteria. These criteria are for national standard developers to incorporate into their national standards and helps streamline certification requirements...

FSC can be a difficult system to navigate. The below guidance documents are to help small scale and community forest owners understand how and where they can get FSC certified. 

User-friendly guide to FSC certification for smallholder
PDF, Size: 1.12MB
FSC step-by-step guide
PDF, Size: 1.13MB
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Aleksey Kuprikov / Pexels

Building on Experience

We have developed policy and market based tools and solutions after trying, testing, and developing internationally recognised and proven methodologies for over 25 years. Dive deeper into our history and learn more here

forests for the future


Forest for the future podcast series. Episode 9: Making FSC relevant for smallholders and communities worldwide. Interview with Vera Santos, New Approaches Project Manager at FSC

25.08.20. Smallholders and community forests play a key role in combatting climate change but only a fraction of them are certified to FSC. What is FSC doing to change that fact and make our system more relevant to this very important group of forest owners? Vera will explain more about the solutions they are testing currently, like contractor certification, modular approach to certification and improvements to the group certification standard. 

Listen now