FSC +20 Forum  - Monday Session Title: Too much demand, too little supply
FSC’s collective consciousness reaches a whole new level
Jesse Cruz (Communications Officer) · Forest Stewardship Council International

Nine global leaders from the business, environmental and human rights world came together at the FSC+20 Forum to discuss the future of forest ecosystems. And for the most part, they’re all on the same page.

zoom (© FSC A.C.) © FSC A.C.The FSC+20 Forum was the first event of its kind at the FSC General Assembly (GA) – one of three panel discussion taken place during the GA – that placed prominent names together for a roundtable discussion on the increasing supply of forest products and on what they believe FSC’s role to be. The panel took place on stage and was live streamed on the internet for all to see.

It provided genuine insight into the minds of CEOs, environmental experts and the indigenous community. And it was a chance to witness first-hand representatives from FSC’s three chambers – people at the highest level of influence and decision-making – talk about the world’s fast-growing demand for forest products, and explore what FSC can do to keep up.

The numbers speak for themselves: according to United Nations data, the human population is projected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050, and rising economies worldwide are creating a truly global middle class. What does this growth in demand mean for the forests, and what is FSC’s role?

Peter Agnefjäll, President and CEO of the IKEA Group, Diogo da Silveira, CEO of Portucel Soporcel, and Jim Lopez, President and CEO of Tembec – longstanding members of FSC’s economic chamber – can talk the talk, but more importantly, they also walk the walk. They are true champions of FSC, and their philosophies and actions prove it. “Wood is a very important source of material for us,” said Agnefjäll, “and IKEA aims to be 100% FSC certified by 2020.” Businesses play a key role in the FSC system, and when they demand good forest products, wood that’s harvested responsibly and that preserves forest ecosystems, it sends a resounding message across the supply chain. “We put our money where our mouth is.” Said da Silveira adamantly, on paying a premium for FSC-certified wood. For Lopez, whose company is now the world leader in FSC certification with over 13 million hectares of forest lands now certified, there are other benefits. “It’s not just a certification tool, it’s relationship tool,” he said, and emphasizes that establishing new business relationships is a key step toward keeping up with demand.

FSC-certified forests that are owned and managed by indigenous communities can be part of the solution toward meeting greater demand. “Indigenous communities want to share in that value creation ,” said Brad Young, Executive Director of National Aboriginal Forestry Association. He encouraged business leaders to consider new business relationships, “we will be right there, hand-in-hand with you.”

The FSC’s principles and criteria (P&C) – the commandments of the FSC system – are not an out-of-the-box implementation solution. They require years of research and analysis by technical experts and people on the ground to help interpret and adapt the P&C to local contexts. Pilar Cárcamo, President of the Association of Forest Engineers for Native Forests (Agrupación de Ingenieros Forestales por el Bosque Nativo, AIFBN), shared her concerns about FSC certification in Chile, cautioned against oversight and the dangers it posed to FSC’s credibility, and urged that resources be allocated at a national level to mitigate the environmental and social impacts of plantations in Chile. FSC certification requires resources, and particularly with the cultural conflict between indigenous communities and businesses in Chile, she cited the need for resources and qualified people on the ground to ensure adherence to the P&C. “These conflicts have been around for many years … and needs to build national-level capacity in conflict zones,” proposed Cárcamo.

There’s no denying the world’s growing human population means the era of thoughtless consumption of Earth’s natural resources must come to an end – the fate of our children and of future generations depends on it. To be sure, a call for cultural change at a global level is easier said than done. And at the first session of the FSC+20 Forum, some of the challenges that were brought to the table were acknowledged by all in attendance. Meeting growing demand is not impossible; it is evident FSC can do things better; and it is clear that some challenges go beyond policy. However, each of the nine participants on the FSC+20 Forum agreed that to secure a sustainable future, they’ll need to take a leap of faith together.