Roadmap to Change

How does FSC intend to generate social, environmental and economic benefits on the ground? In this section, we explain the mechanisms linking our standards with our mission to promote responsible forestry.

FSC Roadmap to Change
CC N Space

Theory of change

A theory of change (ToC) is the basis from which organizations can identify their intended impacts and the changes they need to make to achieve them. A ToC and the concept of defining an ‘impact chain’ is a way of describing the effectiveness of projects by mapping out the underlying assumptions about how they lead to an intended change. For FSC, this means: how do our efforts improve the environmental, social and economic management of forests?

FSC’s ToC helps us to articulate our intended impacts, their contribution to wider sustainability goals for the forest sector, and the related pathways and supporting strategies required to achieve FSC‘s mission of ‘promoting environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world's forests'.

Roadmap to Change

Legend of the graphic

FSC's theory of change contains four mutually-reinforcing pathways and a set of supporting strategies that are used to facilitate and increase our desired outcomes and impacts contributing to our vision and mission. There are: the Engagement, the Standards, the Verification and the Market pathways.

  1. Through the Engagement pathway, FSC brings people with different and conflicting interests in forests together to identify risks, opportunities and solutions related to forest management;
  2. Through the Standards pathway, FSC aims to develop, negotiate and agree on standards with the engagement of members and stakeholders;
  3. Through the Verification pathway (auditing and certification), FSC aims to ensure that compliance to standards relies on the application of quality assurance and control mechanisms, such as the accreditation of certification bodies, the third-party, in-site auditing, and the dispute resolution system which allows for the filing of complaints; and
  4. Through the Market pathway, FSC connects the mechanisms of the consensus-based Standards pathway and the Verification pathway with the demand side to enable market advantages.

Finally, through the supporting strategies, FSC strengthens the main impact pathways and increases the use of standard-compliant practices, for example in the area of advocacy, network development and institutional capacity building.

Intended impacts

Following the development of the theory of change, a list of intended impacts have been developed for the three main areas concerned with responsible forest management: economic, social and environmental impacts.

Market advantage

Forest management operations gain market advantages through certification.


Harvesting activities are based on the principle of sustained yields, so there is a balance of growth and yields of the forest species composition.


Forest management operations gain increased competencies, for example, in planning, impact assessment and evaluation, silviculture, health and safety, and marketing.

Community relationships

Forest management operations have good and fair relations with indigenous peoples and any other local communities, and maintain or enhance fair access to resources and economic benefits.

Community livelihoods

Forest-dependent, forest-managing certified communities improve their livelihoods as well as their forest management and marketing skills.

Labour rights

Forest management operations improve workers' living and working conditions, especially with respect to occupational health and safety.

Mitigate degradation

Minimised degradation of natural forests, and no conversion of forests to other land use in certified areas.

Biodiversity is valued

Forest management operations maintain or enhance biodiversity. High conservation values of the forests are identified with stakeholder input and maintained or enhanced through appropriate management.

Preserve ecosystem services

Forest management operations identify and maintain the forests' manifold ecosystem services from forest soil, water and biodiversity.

Continuous improvement

Forest management operations develop strategies to diversify their portfolio of forest products and manage a broad portfolio to increase environmental and economic resilience.

Legal compliance

Legal compliance by forest management operations and exclusion of illegal activities within the forest management units.


Bring together diverse groups of people to craft policy with local (the network) and international (FSC) consistency, empowering marginalized groups with a stake in forestry.


ISEAL alliance

FSC is a member of the ISEAL Alliance, the global association for social and environmental standards systems. Together with other ISEAL Alliance members, FSC has developed the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Assessing the Impacts of Social and Environmental Standards.

This code requires FSC, and other ISEAL Alliance members, to clearly state the changes they want to create in their respective fields, and to measure their progress continually. We cooperate closely with other members to revise this code and its related documents as needed.


Overview of the FSC Theory of Change “Rewarding responsible forestry” - 2/1/2014
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