It is estimated that over 13 million people are employed in the forestry sector worldwide, many of them in dangerous jobs, where accidents can threaten their well-being and safety. Similarly, many workers in wood, construction, paper and other upstream industries are in need of protection of their rights.
Since its foundation, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has considered workers’ rights and safety a priority in FSC certified forests: Principle 2 of the organization’s Principles and Criteria is dedicated to safeguarding the protection of workers by specifically upholding their rights and maintaining or enhancing their social and economic welfare.
The strong rules to ensure the protection of workers’ rights reflect the clear focus FSC has always had on empowering workers in the FSC system, a point that is now also strongly embodied by the organization’s Global Strategic Plan.
Protecting workers’ rights according to ILO requirements has always been part of FSC’s certification requirements for the more than 1,500 forest management FSC-certified businesses. Now, FSC is streamlining and reaffirming the scope of workers’ rights protection in all FSC certified businesses around the world: in September 2017, FSC achieved a major milestone by agreeing ILO requirements for all FSC certified businesses, thereby also putting workers’ rights on the agenda in the 34,000 chain of custody certified businesses.
“Enhancing workers’ social and economic well-being is, and remains, one of the 10 FSC principles and FSC is strongly committed to these. This important step is a clear indication of how essential workers’ rights are to us, and we are strongly committed to continuing down this path,” says Kim Carstensen, Director General of FSC.
The roll-out of the ILO generic criteria in national and global standards has already begun: the FSC Board of Directors agreed to add the agreed indicator text as new indicators and sub-indicators in the International Generic Indicators – a major reinforcement to those provisions.
A feasibility and risk assessment study is envisioned to inform of potential challenges and opportunities of rolling the new requirements out to businesses certified in the chain of custody. Besides working on how best to incorporate the new ILO requirements into CoC audits, FSC is also in the process of assessing how else labour and other social issues can be enhanced in Chain of Custody certification.
Drawing from the lessons learnt during the first meeting of the FSC Labour Solutions Forum held last year, participation of certificate holders, trade unions and other stakeholders will be key this year in developing innovative solutions to ensure the protection of workers’ rights in FSC certification.
“As with many other processes within FSC, stakeholder input is essential. Implementing these indicators in the FSC chain of custody certificates will be a huge task, that will require engagement with stakeholders especially certificate holders and trade unions in the coming years, but we are confident that this will be achieved to continue empowering workers within the FSC system,” says Paul Opanga, FSC Manager Labour Issues.