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Side event: Tuesday 8.30am – People and Forests. Social rights after 20 years of the creation of FSC
1 out of 100
20 years of social rights
Ida Rehnström ( Head of Communications and Strategic Partnerships) · FSC DK

“Within FSC, 90 percent of members are from the Economic Chamber, 9 percent are from the Environmental Chamber and only 1 percent is Social.” – Luis Astonga, AIFBN

zoom (© FSC A.C.) © FSC A.C.This year we celebrate 20 years of FSC history, which also means 20 years of social issues and social rights within the system. The Social Chamber of FSC met to take the temperature of social rights within today’s system, but also to have a look at the goals for years to come. This well-attended meeting brought forth a clear picture of the long way that the social chamber has come since the beginning, but also pointed toward the work that remains.

”Are we really conveying a good message with this logo?” asked Luis Astonga from AIFBN in Chile, while holding up a juice carton and pointing to its FSC logo. “The credibility of this logo depends on the balance of the chambers in FSC, the idea the social chamber not smaller than the others. After I learned that within FSC, 90 percent of members are from the economic chamber, 9 percent are from the environmental chamber and only 1 percent is social, I realized there is no balance between the chambers in FSC”. Some participants nodded. Luis acknowledged the long way that FSC has come in putting forward social rights, but is not satisfied with the results on the ground.

A need for action

“Good progress has been made on social strategy, and social issues are incorporated into standards and policies, but we still have yet to see the results of this work.” – Vanessa Linforth, Social Policy Manager at FSC International

Vanessa Linforth, Social Policy Manager at FSC International, gave a presentation on working with social strategy within FSC. “How many in this room know that FSC has a social strategy?” she asked. About one third of attendees raised their hands. “I honestly did not know when I started working with FSC” she stated “and looking back at it today, it was really a wish list – not an action plan”. She continued: “good progress has been made on social strategy, and social issues are incorporated into standards and policies, but we still have yet to see the results of this work”.

In Vanessa’s opinion, the lack of results is partly due to lack of training of certification bodies and the network. Marcus Colchester of the Forest Peoples Programme seconded that view: “Certification is only as good as the participation,” he said. “What I see is that indigenous peoples don’t know what rights they have when confronted with a company. For FSC to work, it has to work for people on the ground as well.”

The next ten years

After hearing from more presenters on social rights, the meeting moved into discussion. People formed debate groups to write down their visions for FSC’s social program in the next decade. Notes from the lively discussions were summed up by Michael Conroy from the Board of Directors: “First of all, we are probably the slowest maturing chamber in FSC, but I believe we have made huge progress. Look at the workers rights, the Permanent Indigenous Peoples Committee, and so much more”

He urged the room to think about how far the social chamber has come and to not focus on the negative. “Watching you reminds me of why I love the work in the social chamber” he continued. Reading the notes developed by the groups, he pinpointed examples of where FSC should move during the next ten years, including:

  • Getting areas of higher values certified
  • FSC strengthening of unions
  • Developing an FSC community logo
  • Implementing the standard.

The last note sent a wave of laughter throughout the room.

To end the session, Michael invited everyone to participate actively in the development of the global strategy during the next five months. “There are so many great ideas here. Let us give the Board the mandate to say: this is what our members want,” he concluded.