The FSC Board of Directors wishes to clarify some misconceptions that appear in a recent report by Greenpeace under the title “Destruction: Certified”.
In its over 25 years of existence, FSC has been a pioneer in the introduction of multi-stakeholder consensus and a robust governance structure to guide its mission towards delivering deforestation free wood and wood-based products to society.
FSC has made important contributions to ensure that adhering companies abide by stringent forest management protocols that in themselves work against any attempt to greenwash. The Board of Directors strongly dismisses any allegations that FSC is merely a certification for greenwashing. Our norms include strict rules against conversion of forest inside the certified areas and also strict rules that companies cannot remain associated with FSC if they convert forest outside the certified areas. This is secured under our Policy for Association (PfA), a mechanism that no other forest certification scheme has.
FSC always wants to learn from criticism, and we will also use the Greenpeace report as a basis for further learning and improvement. However, most of the points raised are not new to us, and we’re working on improvements that will enable us to remain the world’s most trusted forest certification scheme. Greenpeace in its report also acknowledges some of these efforts*.
In line with our tradition as the foremost benchmark for forest stewardship, the following are among the most robust improvements that FSC has made in recent years, of which the Board of Directors is especially proud:
- In January 2021, FSC achieved a major milestone by approving the integration of the FSC Core Labour Requirements into our Chain-of-Custody standard. With this, which goes beyond workers in forestry operations alone, the protection of workers' rights will be checked in all FSC certified companies throughout their supply chains in 130 countries.
- To strengthen FSC’s engagement with Indigenous Peoples, FSC recently created the FSC Indigenous Foundation (FSC IF), designed to develop creative and innovative solutions to support Indigenous Peoples and enable them to protect their rights and to steer their own development through sustainable management of their territories, using the FSC certification tools. The FSC IF has recently launched the Indigenous Peoples Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD), a five-year, $13 million partnership to support the world’s Indigenous Peoples.
- Most recently, on 10 March 2021, the FSC Board of Directors, in its 87th meeting, approved the revised Guidelines for Free, Prior and Informed Consent, which reflect the importance that FSC accords Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the necessary dialogue related to forestry operations on the land where they live.
- With the recently created Impact Dashboard, FSC is the only forest certification scheme to offer a compilation of results from scientific studies about the outcomes of FSC-certification across the world’s forests. This leap towards transparency and provision of scientific data about demonstrated social and environmental impact of FSC certification is miles away from allegations of greenwashing.
- Greenpeace mentions FSC’s Transaction Verification mechanism as only being used in China. This is untrue. Transaction Verification is used in several investigations around the world and has led to real impact in suspended, terminated or blocked certificates in diverse regions, including European producers of pulp or charcoal products. The list of suspended, terminated and blocked certificates is publicly available on FSC's certificate website.
- To further strengthen FSC’s traceability mechanism, the organization is working intensively to build our first pilots using blockchain and to identify the most significant uses for the technology in our supply chains. Our CIO, Michael Marus, explains our progress on this in a podcast that gives a much more accurate picture of our plans for moving forward on supply chain integrity.
- No other sustainable forestry certification scheme is advancing as fast as FSC to “put certified areas on the map”. As such, implementation of new GIS tools is a core function of FSC. In 2019, FSC released its first set of GIS-based maps. Stakeholders are now able to digitally identify FSC-certified forest areas on top of a satellite imagery base map. Through 2021, FSC will focus most of its GIS capacity on launching and further developing a GIS verification platform to enable satellite monitoring and analysis of certified forest areas according to selected FSC requirements from FSC Principles and Criteria.
FSC is not the single silver bullet that will stop worldwide deforestation, since many drivers of deforestation are not related to forestry -- including agricultural expansion, subsistence needs and land claims based on forest clearance. Nevertheless, over the past 25 years of successful existence it has made great strides toward improving forest management over vast areas and ensuring that deforestation-free timber and timber products reach consumers. Moreover, FSC's Global Strategy 2021-2026 emphasizes partnerships for co-creating new solutions, and sets out a path towards stronger engagement with other initiatives to protect, manage and restore the world’s forests.
FSC understands and lives its mission as a community where multiple actors work together, including consumers following their goodwill intentions by buying certified products, and companies that make significant investments to earn the FSC label. We know that, overall, and despite needs for continued improvement, FSC provides tremendous benefit to society. The Board of Directors is proud of FSC’s achievements to ensure a holistic approach to forest stewardship creating social, environmental and economic value to stakeholders all over the world.
* Greenpeace, “Destruction: Certified”, pg. 86, 2021.