Independent from the FSC, the certification body conducts an on-site audit to assess compliance with FSC standards to award FSC certification. This includes forest management certification to a given forest manager, or to confirm compliance of an already operating certification. The normal process (outside of the constraints placed by COVID-19 pandemic) requires the CB to travel to the forest site, rely on the manager to provide the data about their forest and demonstrate their compliance with necessary FSC regulations. Whilst thorough and effective, the certification process can be lengthy and complex.
With the FSC GIS Portal, FSC on the Map becomes an even more useful tool because detailed certified forest boundaries can be drawn for audit preparation. FSC on the Map, in combination with the more advanced FSC GIS Portal, makes the audits easier and faster for both the certification body and the certificate holder.
With the GIS tool offered by FSC, audits can be prepared more efficiently. The ideal scenario is when the audited forest has been included in the FSC on the Map. Then, the auditors can find the forest and use the map to input detailed boundaries for further analysis. On that basis, the CB can review any changes to the forest land using geospatial data combined with satellite imagery.
In the case of a first-time audit to award certification, the prospective certificate holder can still make the forest data available to the CB, who will then upload it on the FSC on the Map. This will enable the same, efficient auditing process.
If any disputes or claims against the FSC certification arise - they can be investigated through GIS technology. Certification bodies can assess what has happened and make data-based judgements on the issue. If such cases arise, certification bodies will have access to visual data in the exact area the alleged incident has taken place. The decision-making process for certification bodies and certificate holders is then made simpler and quicker, based on objective and transparent data that cannot be easily misinterpreted.
FSC on the Map is a geospatial platform which gathers data of FSC certified forest’s detailed boundaries, contributed on a voluntary basis by certificate holders. These forest boundaries are compiled, validated and processed before appearing on an FSC web map.
FSC GIS Portal is a new web mapping application that enables FSC forest management auditors around the globe to access relevant geospatial information. It includes data collected through FSC on the Map that can then easily be combined with up-to-date satellite derived data in the GIS Portal. The portal will enable forest management auditors to prepare more easily and to make an objective selection of areas for inspection during an onsite audit.