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The Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) certification standards require certificate holders to comply with workers' rights protected by the International Labour Organization (ILO) Core Conventions. This affects over 50,000 certificate holders worldwide, thereby raising concerns about the risks associated with integrity and credibility. Assurance Services International (ASI), on behalf of FSC, conducted a risk-assessment review on potential risks for the verification and realization of core labour requirements in FSC’s certification system for selected countries.
Labour rights and decent work conditions are key elements of the social dimension of sustainability, which are protected by the ILO Core Conventions. Countries vary in their approach to implementing the ILO Core Conventions, resulting in gaps in legal frameworks and limited enforcement capacity. Factors like political conflicts and restrictions on democratic freedom further hinder the enjoyment of these rights and the ability of workers to exercise collective voices.
This presents challenges for FSC to ensure that certificate holders are able to conform with these requirements and certification bodies’ (CBs) ability to verify them.
To address this issue, ASI reviewed the legal framework around the ILO Core Conventions in 19 high-risk countries (as identified by FSC) in relation to the right to:
Specific aspects considered in the study included practices of risk assessment and mitigation measures associated with the verification of social compliance in weak regulatory environments. Furthermore, ASI also conducted an in-depth review of the legal implementation and verification challenges faced by certification bodies in the following five countries identified by FSC: India, Vietnam, Turkey, Indonesia, and China.
Based on the findings of this study, ASI and FSC will take action to address the challenges for protecting workers’ rights in FSC certified companies.
FSC aims to ensure that certificate holders and certification bodies apply high standards related to workers' rights in the forestry sector, in accordance with the ILO Core Conventions and the core labour requirements included in FSC’s normative framework. FSC and ASI will jointly facilitate calibration workshops and trainings with certification bodies auditors in four countries – India, China, Indonesia and Turkey. The workshops will focus on identifying non-conformities related to core labour requirements and the adoption of adequate measures to address them.
FSC will implement a set of pilot actions in India, Indonesia, China and Turkey to manage the specific risks of violation of core labour rights. FSC and ASI will adopt other follow up measures to develop a consistent approach towards ensuring conformity with labour rights across FSC supply chains, globally.
FSC and ASI are committed to addressing the social and legal challenges around core labour requirements faced by certificate holders and CBs in high-risk countries. The ILO Core Conventions are the globally accepted standard for good labour rights and management practices, hence FSC’s and ASI’s actions - based on the findings of this research study - are aimed at safeguarding workers’ rights and promoting responsible practices in the forestry sector.