Side event: Wednesday 2.00 p.m. “Certification for communities in the South: A new approach”
One size does not fit all
Morten Brodde (Advisor and Project Manager) · FSC Denmark

Wednesday afternoon the Danish organization Forests of the World, the Permanent Indigenous Peoples Committee (PIPC) and Imaflora passed on voices from certified communities in the South through short videos. The videos came from countries far from Seville, but all contained the same key message: FSC needs to develop forest standards that fit different communities.

zoom (© FSC A.C.) © FSC A.C.“There seems to be a very commonly held feeling that it is time for change and that FSC needs to make a decision,” said Vanessa Linforth, Social Policy Manager in FSC International.

Last year a community task force was appointed by the FSC International Board of Directors to develop a new certification approach for communities in the South. Now, a package of drafts including a standard, compliance support tool and auditor evaluation systems is now ready.

“In February this year we did another round of field testing and went much more into detail on international generic indicators. We looked and asked for direct feedback from communities: Do you like this indicator? Do you understand this indicator? Is it worth anything to you? How would you write it?” explained Linforth.

Maria Ines Miranda, task force member and SSC Wood Technologies elaborated: “The idea was to look at the standard from the perspective of the communities. We said: let’s try to develop a first draft with completely different values and completely different wording, take it to the fields and test it and bring it back to the General Assembly, where we are today,” said Maria Ines Miranda.

Voices from the south: It’s too complex

The videos and voices that session attendees were shown all came from certified communities. One of them was from the Honduran forest cooperative Coatlahl.

“The principles and criteria they are implementing are too complex, and it is very difficult for the organizations to comply with principles that demand more costs. The income is low, so it is very hard to continue as certified organization,” said Darwin Faunez, Forest Technician at Coatlahl, who finished the video with the recommendation that FSC simplify the principles and criteria and adapt them to the realities facing communities. Darwin’s video was followed by several others, which explained the important role of the forests to the communities’ livelihood, but also the challenges of being certified.

Despite that fact that communities are having problems maintaining their certificates they are very keen on keeping their certification status.

“They haven’t had an economic benefit of being FSC-certified and however they are still certified – which shows their commitment to FSC”, said Maria Ines Miranda.

Missing links

Making standards that makes sense to communities and that reflect their reality is not the only challenge in maintaining and developing FSC certification in communities, according to Sergio Herrera: “There has been a project where a producer from the South, Coatlahl, has been connected to a buyer in Europe, and this must be done more. At first the buyer was that Coatlahl could provide the demanded products in time and with the right quality. (…) But it went well and Coatlahl is still delivering furniture to that buyer today”, he said. He went on to say that the main challenge certified producers face in local markets is competition from lower-priced non-certified producers.