For twenty years now, we have worked with companies around the world to keep our forests safe for future generations. Along the way, there have been many celebrations and milestones for FSC, but that’s not to say there haven’t been challenges.

While we work with organisations to help them gain FSC certification, we also recognise that maintaining responsible forest management and upholding FSC’s values are essential to our success. If a company fails to do this, we must take action; for both the company’s welfare and the reputation of the FSC system.

At times, this requires us to remove certification, or disassociate, from organisations that are not meeting FSC standards. But this process is not just about punishing poor performance. We always endeavor to find ways for organisations to rejoin the FSC family. After all, FSC is about improvement. We engage in mediation, diplomacy, and reaching out and correcting errors.

A good example of how FSC can work with certificate holders to overcome these hurdles is the Danzer Group. The wood processing company had been running operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) but, unfortunately, its systems were not strong enough to deal with serious social conflicts in the area.

Greenpeace raised a complaint against the Danzer Group, and FSC’s investigation led to the conclusion that there was significant doubt that Danzer had resilient enough procedures in place. Particularly, as DR Congo was one of the most difficult places to work in the world: with a history of civil war, poor governance and a lack of development opportunities in the forest.

After the disassociation, Danzer insisted that it wanted to join the FSC family again. For that to happen, we stated that Danzer had to fulfill social promises made in the DR Congo – such as building schools and medical clinics – and at the same time it had to develop a qualified set of procedures to demonstrate its capacity to prevent and manage conflict.

While at the time Danzer clearly did not agree with FSC’s disassociation decision, having come through a process of reconciliation, the company is now much better equipped. And we’re proud to say that Danzer has worked tirelessly to develop a robust conflict management system.

We believe Danzer has now set a new benchmark that could, and indeed should, be followed by all certified logging companies operating in difficult places like the Congo Basin.

What’s more, a year and half later, having learnt a lot, Danzer’s subsidiary Industrie Forestière d'Ouesso (IFO) has achieved the largest certified concession area in the Congo basin – some 1.2 million hectares, under a completely new audit.

We’re proud that through FSC certification, we’re making social systems better and encouraging organisations to think beyond their own company to issues such as workers’ health and safety and sustainable water management.

Of course, it wasn’t only Danzer Group that learnt from this journey, it was invaluable for FSC too. From meetings with Danzer, we now understand more thoroughly what is, and is not, working with the FSC system. We recognise that FSC certification makes requirements of organisations, and that we need our own systems to make these requirements manageable, while at the same time making sure FSC-certified companies uphold standards – now and in twenty years’ time too.