Wednesday 10 September, 14:00–15:30
FSC’s approach to the ILO Core Conventions
Ida Rehnström (Head of Communications) · FSC Denmark


International Labour Organization (ILO) core conventions have been a subject of tension for quite some time within FSC, and they are still a hot political topic. But according to Kim Carstensen, Director General of FSC, many at the 2014 FSC General Assembly do not realize how important this topic is.

zoom (© FSC A.C.) © FSC A.C.Wednesday’s meeting presented FSC’s approach to the ILO core conventions in the current normative framework and provided an outlook on the ongoing activities and processes to create a set of generic criteria to ensure a harmonized approach to compliance with the eight ILO core conventions, as defined in the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, across the FSC system.

On the panel were Kim Carstensen and Frank Schmidt-Hullmann from IG Bau. The trade’s unions are continuously experiencing violations of ILO core conventions in relation to FSC certification. According to Carstensen, that is why this meeting was important. FSC is in a process of resolving this issue, but according to Carstensen, this should have been done a long time ago:
“I’m in this meeting because I’m really embarrassed we have not solved this issue,” he said.

Violations of ILO core conventions

Schmidt-Hullman gave an introduction to the development of the ILO core conventions and provided information on implementation issues of FSC cases in Fiji, Malaysia and the USA from the trade union perspective. These are cases of deliberate violations of the right to organize, governments and leaders pushing for laws in violation of ILO core conventions and of companies still obtaining FSC certification in spite these obstacles. Though deliberate violations are seen,

“Certified companies generally want to do this right, how can we reach out to these guys in need, and how do we treat certifiers that do not take these cases seriously?” he asked.

In response to this Carstensen said, “It’s a challenge to solve some of these issues, what do we do against military dictatorships, for example – does FSC or legality come first? I don’t have a straight answer to that, but what I can say is that it’s not OK to not do anything, we have to do something!”

“FSC cannot directly intervene in the certification process, but could potentially engage in a stakeholder dialogue to support resolution of these implementation problems,” he suggested.

Several other implementation problems were identified by trade unions, such as stakeholder engagement processes conducted by certification bodies and interpretation issues of ILO core conventions due to language barriers.

Moving forward

Carstensen: “The issue with core ILO and implementing them has been at Chain of Custody level.” They are currently linked to the policy of association and have a format of a signed contract.

“We linked ILO to policy of association – if it was a good idea, I don’t know. But right now the format is the type of document you, as a company, tend to just sign with no deeper thought – that raises questions,” he said. “At the same time we experience challenges from a lot of companies finding it problematic to commit to” such contracts. It has all come down to a temporary solution, approved by the Board of Directors, whereby companies can choose to sign one of two different wordings. But this is only temporary and the trade unions are against this approach.

The next step is the working group that is to be approved after the General Assembly. They are to look at all of FSC’s standards to implement workers rights at all levels. First through creating a common understanding, and second by translating that into auditable criteria.

“I do understand if people are impatient, this has been under way since 2002 and I honestly don’t know why this process was firstly postponed and later forced,” said Carstensen on wanting to do it right this time. “It’s taking longer than expected – the working group needs to be chamber balanced, we need trade unions and also companies that were against signing the original text.”

Carstensen estimates that the working group should be commence its work right after the General Assembly and be able to have its first meeting later this year.