Digitalization of our audit reports

We are introducing digital audit reporting to the FSC system in 2021/2022. This will enable us to appropriately access audit data and easily identify trends and impacts of certification, as well as spot risks and act appropriately in a timely manner.

FSC Digital Audits
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One standard format

We have a wealth of data on forest management certification available in FSC through public summary reports, available online for everyone on info.fsc.org. These reports are intended to support local stakeholders, researchers, forest standard development groups and FSC itself, not only in assessing the performance of our system on forest management but also to improve it continuously. The data from our public summary reports is, however, not systematised. It is available in a multitude of different formats, depending on which certification body collects it. Exploring each single summary report makes it very difficult and time consuming to gather and aggregate data and to enable analysis. FSC Digital audit reporting solves this problem. 

In the first phase, the project will include the transition of all forest management audit reports to a defined data architecture. Starting April 1st 2022, the certification bodies will need to have adapted their reporting templates to the FSC data architecture and data definitions, which will be implemented for audits. Next, FSC will work during 2022 to provide a web app that replaces current reporting, and additionally consumes, validates, and uploads data. The project will address implementation of Motion 16 from 2017. 

Usability and fit-for-purpose is central to FSC  

For FSC, it is key that the system is as easy as possible for certification bodies to use and integrate in their everyday work. Therefore, after initially proposing an FSC standardized MS word template, FSC provided the data architecture to CBs for them to adapt their own templates. The information from the reports will be then consumed by FSC DB.

Coming next, the future data collection app and the associated web-portal portal functionalities will enable improved data quality and intends to lower the workload of auditors in creating a new audit report in the long term. The standardized public summary created out of the audit report will make it much easier for stakeholders and researchers to use and analyze the data they contain on an aggregated level. Only a portion of the audit report – that is the public summary – will be open and accessible from the FSC International website (info.fsc.org) and with the same content available as it is the case today. 

Digital Chain of Custody reporting will be next step 

We will start the FSC Digital Audit Reporting Project with forest management audit reports but plan to digitalize chain of custody (CoC) and controlled wood audit reports as next steps. These projects will only commence once digital forest management audit reports project has been successfully  implemented.   

forests for the future

Podcast

We are in the process of recording a new podcast to reflect the updated set-up and requirements of FM digital reporting. While we finalize the new podcast, feel free to check out previous one. 

Forest for the future podcast series. Episode 3

21-05-2020. In this episode we will be looking into how FSC is working to standardize the way information is captured from audit reports. This aim is to make the data more useful to both ourselves and all of our stakeholders. We will be asking Joanna Nowakowska and Sean Cheng, who are working on the project. 

Listen now

Resources

(last updated 15 November 2021)

The resources listed on this page are aimed at certification bodies conducting FSC Forest Management audits. They include FSC reference template and associated files. 

  1. Word template containing all required data fields for a forest management audit. English (Version V02-02)
  2. FM Data architecture file for data specified in word template. This file can be used directly or to adapt CB templates (coming by 31 December 2021)
  3. Species list to enable easier search of species reported from the forest.
  4. Pesticides list to enable easier search of pesticides used in the forest, if relevant.
  5. User guide to provide an explanation of template requirements and functions for users (coming by 31 December 2021)

(last updated 15 November 2021)

Technical FAQs

Timelines for implementation

  1. What are the timelines for mandatory test and use? 

    January 1st 2022

    FSC provides FM Data architecture file. 
     
    FSC works further on the data collection app and the reporting portal in collaboration with Certification bodies. 

    April 1st 2022

    onwards

    CB required to provide data according to the FSC data architecture

    2022 

    Roll-out of web app to consume, validate and upload data, replacing the existing word template.

Access to data and data integration

  1. Will FSC provide a public API integration with certification body systems? or an option for data export?

    The API integration with certification body’s own data management system is not yet available. However, FSC plans to work towards this functionality. When available, the integration will require alignment with FSC data schema or mapping of data against it.  

  2. Will certification body be able to access and use the data for their own analytics?

    We are aware of and fully understand that certification bodies similarly to FSC use the data from data reports to ensure internal quality control, trend analysis of own data, etc. We therefore also understand the need for data access or data extraction. 

    In the future certification portal, Certification bodies will be able to access the data stored in FSC DB about their own certificates. 

    FSC will build analytics based on the expected data from FM Online and will as part of the process explore to which extend it is possible for us to share the analytics results directly with certification bodies.  

    If certification bodies would like to develop a similar system to that of FSC and import data directly from the template into own systems, this is possible if the certification body has infrastructure or tools that allows data extraction. 

General FAQs

  1. What is FSC Digital audit reporting and FM Digital reporting?

    FSC digital audit reporting focuses on standardizing the existing FSC audit reporting formats into new single digital format. FM Digital reporting is the part of the project, which focus on audit reports from forest management (FM) evaluations.  

    Standardized data architecture for FSC FM audit reporting will enable us to access properly audit data, aggregate them and to identify trends, outcomes and risk areas in order to evaluate and improve the FSC system. Future FSC Digital audit reporting will also ensure that public summaries are automatically created in a standardized format, making it much easier for researchers and stakeholders to use and analyze the data they contain on an aggregated level.  

    In the absence of a centralized format, certification bodies have created their own – and usually different – versions of audit reporting templates. They use different programs, layouts and phrasing to fill in the same fields. This makes the data contained in the current reports very difficult to process and learn from. Digital reporting will address this problem.

  2. Can the template be used offline?

    Yes. The template can be used offline, while the user prepares, fills in, reviews and finalizes the report in a Microsoft Word document. Importantly, the Add-Inn must be installed and used for data validation. 

    The auditor or reviewer will only need to be online while fetching the data for the report. In 2022, this data will primarily be core contact information, as this will be the first time for each audit that the database is used. From 2023 onwards, the data fetch will include information about corrective action requests from previous audits, species lists, pesticide lists, site overview and similar data elements.  

    Users will also have to be online while uploading data from the report to the central database, which will then prepare the public summary. (Mandatory from 1 January 2022 only.) 

  3. Will the template be mandatory for certification bodies?

    Yes, FSC will make FSC Digital audit reporting and related solutions mandatory for certification bodies to successfully improve the data quality and usability of FSC forest management audit reports.  

    FSC members enabled and supported this decision. During the FSC General Assembly in 2017, the membership actually approved a motion calling for FSC to implement a centralized and enable data analysis to capture trends and identify risks.  

  4. Will all data from the reports be uploaded into a central database?

    All information from audit reports conforming to FSC data definition will be uploaded to FSC Database and re-used for future audits.

    Only a portion of the audit report – that is the public summary – will be open and accessible from the FSC International website.

  5. Will aggregated statistics of FM audit results be publicly available?

    Yes, these statistics will be publicly available. With the successful scaling up of FSC digital audit reporting, all relevant information, which is currently available through individual public summary reports, could be aggregated and analyzed from different angles and groups, such as by country, or forest type, etc.

  6. Who will get access to aggregated data and can run reports?

    Users and access rights will remain the same as now.  

    FSC will have access to the data from the pre-defined fields in the audit reports. However, only some of the data will be available for public users to run aggregated reports, i.e. data from public summary reports. The data captured and made available for the public will be the same information as is currently available. Today, the certification bodies must manually enter most of this data into our database. Public summaries are also generated manually, by copying and pasting information from the full report. 
    With next phases of the FSC Digital audit reporting and the data collection app, there will be no need to manually enter data into the database or create a public summary. Aggregated data will include data, which is already publicly available today through FSC Facts and Figures and will consist of data like the number of certified hectares, forest type, ownership structure (private/public). 

    Other parts of the data contained in the public summary reports will be available to relevant FSC entities and to researchers with a justified reason for being granted access to the data. For instance, viewing the number of corrective action requests for a given certification body. This data can be used to identify which indicators often spark corrective action requests and hence where FSC standards need to be improved or have additional guidance developed.  

    As the scheme owner, FSC takes overall responsibility of data aggregation to ensure transparency, monitor the impact and communicate properly to stakeholders. However, the certification bodies remain responsible for the data entered in the database and its lawful provision.

  7. Will sensitive or confidential information be uploaded to the database?

    Yes, collection and evaluation of sensitive or confidential information is a natural part of certification, and to some extend confidential information will be uploaded to the database, naturally while respecting and adhering to all relevant privacy legislation such as the European GDPR legislation.  

    This is no change from the present situation, where confidential information is also part of the mandatory information collected by certification bodies and manually processed. 

    When confidential information is included in the audit report, it will be treated as confidential when uploaded into the database.  

    All sensitive information and data shall be treated with discretion and in conformity with the data protection requirements, such as EU GDPR requirements. 

    In case local laws and regulations prevent confidential or sensitive information to be collected via certification audits, FSC shall be notified, as it would be a case of conflict with legal requirements for FSC certification.

  8. Will personal information be uploaded to the database?

    There will be no change in the information currently collected by certification bodies. As it is the case today, certain personal information will be uploaded. 
    This information includes: 

    • contact person for certification body,  
    • names and expertise of auditors,  
    • name of per reviewer, and 
    • names and contact details of group members where allowed by the legislation.

    All personal identifiable information will be excluded from public access unless the relevant consents were granted. The publishing or not of the personal information will be at the discretion of the certification body. All sensitive information and data will be treated with discretion and in conformity with the EU GDPR requirements. 

    In case local laws and regulations prevent such information to be collected via certification data, FSC shall be notified as it would be a case of conflict with legal requirements for FSC certification.

  9. Where will the database be stored and under which security level?

    The database will be stored in a centralized Microsoft data center in Europe, which will enable us to provide the highest level of data protection, in conformity with the EU GDPR requirements.  

    Access to the database will be subject to identity management, ensuring that strict access management to the data can be put in place.

  10. Will the new public summary reports provide more information than the past ones?

    No. The new template will contain similar information as in the previous reports, as it follows the same normative requirements, stipulated in FSC-STD-20-007b, and evolves with the future revision of FSC-STD-20-007. 

    The main change is that the new public summary will make the information easier to digest across different certification bodies and that the data fields containing data, which can be aggregated, will now be easily available for trend analysis and risk identification. 

    However, FSC has been asked by our stakeholders to make it easier to monitor impact and evaluate the effect of FSC certification. To enable this, we are reviewing the current scope of data that is required as part of the current revision of FSC-STD-20-007. This revision includes public consultation. 

    It is important that FSC improves in reporting on impact monitoring and evaluation, and we welcome all comments and proposals during the ongoing revision of FSC-STD-20-007 in 2020.

  11. Will the report template be adapted to regional and national FSC FM standards?

    There are three levels of requirements in an FSC FM standard: principle, criterion and indicator. The principles define the backbone of the FSC definition of a sustainable forest management. Each principle is broken down into a series of criteria of what must be met to be FSC certified. The national – or regional – working groups define what the indicators should be to prove that a given criterion has been met on a local scale. In cases where there is no national or regional standard, certification bodies can create interim standards.  

    The report template does not intend to capture detailed checklist on the indicator level for every regional / national FM standard. The information might be based on a criterion level to address the diversity of different national standards and certification bodies’ interim standards, unless certification body chooses to provide information at the indicator level. 

    In the future, FSC plans to integrate the digital reporting with the database of normative requirements, once the later is developed. This will enable the provision of full national or regional checklists. 

  12. How will special audits (not certified /recertification / monitoring audits) be handled by the system?

    In the short term the platform will cover main evaluation and surveillance evaluation, which are mandatory for certification and support of a FM certificate.  

    If in the future certification bodies find it useful to add commonly occurring audits, the FSC Digital Audit Reporting team will address this need by adding new features.

  13. Will FM Online be integrated with a Geographic information system (GIS) software?

    FSC digital audit reporting does not currently integrate any GIS software. However, we are planning integration with FSC GIS Portal after the complete FM digital reporting is delivered.  

    Areas for integration could be through the use of the FSC GIS platform to help auditors identify where to focus their audits on the ground and incorporate this information into the audit report template. Other potential integrations could be to make direct links available to voluntarily uploaded GIS maps – with layers showing high conservation value areas, protected areas, etc. 

  14. Will the quality of the input data be checked during the upload?

    At the current state, certification bodies are asked to ensure that data quality meets the requirements. In 2022, the CB templates will be replaced by a web application that allows to validate data automatically. The data validation in the web application will ensure that, for example: 

    • numeric values are consistent and acceptable,  
    • mandatory fields are filled,  
    • telephone number has the characteristics of a telephone number, or  
    • forest types selected are justifiable, i.e. that tropical forests do not appear in Europe,
    • and so on.  

    Certification bodies will be asked to correct any fields, in which the data do not follow the prescribed structure in order to enable upload.

  15. Will the reporting enable certification bodies to identify both plantations and natural forests within the same forest management unit (MU)?

    Plantations often co-exist with natural forests within the same MU. It is not currently possible for certification bodies to mark one MU as including both forest types. The data architecture and database have been designed to enable certification bodies to capture both forest types in a given MU.  

    However, this information is not spatially identifiable (meaning that it is not visible on a detailed map with clear borders between plantations and natural forests). It only exists as a data field indicating the areas in terms of numbers.

  16. Will legacy data (or old FM audit reports) be converted into the new template?

    No, historical data from previous audit reports – in PDF, Word or Excel format – will not be converted into the new template. The primary information of present FM certificate holders in current platform (e.g. company name and contacts) will be copied to the new database. This project will only provide solutions for future audit reports.