Opinion & Analysis

FSC members: Simplify, please!
Anita Neville, Representative Australia and Oceania, Rainforest Alliance and Anne-Sofie Forfang, Communications Manager, NEPCon

Thursday’s voting at the FSC General Assembly (GA) showed that the members of FSC care deeply about the governance of their organization. It also demonstrated a strong push for system simplification combined with rigor and transparency.

zoom (© FSC A.C.) © FSC A.C.With a combination of good humor, impassioned pleas and a lot of (FSC-certified) paper, the seventh FSC General Assembly is under way.

The issue of governance has been high on the agenda this year. Statutory Motion 1 was the first to be passed by the members. Titled “To reaffirm the high standing of decision and motions passed by the GA and resolutions”, the motion emphasizes the authority of the General Assembly and the FSC members.

Motion 42, which specifically addressed governance, was also passed. The consensus on this motion demonstrates the need to streamline governance processes and ensure efficient membership engagement.

Simplification a key theme in 2014

Throughout this week there has been a recurring theme on Twitter: “FSC KISS” – Keep it Strong and Simple. And this has been reflected in the pattern of voting on both the statutory and policy motions today.

Motion 84 – an omnibus motion that urged the development of an FSC Global Strategy – was voted in unopposed. This reflected the strength of feeling among members, expressed at many side meetings this week, that the FSC needs to set a clear forward direction. Similarly Motion 11 on the need for an innovative approach to enabling smallholder access to the FSC passed without opposition. This reflects themes we have touched on within this newsletter throughout the week.

Trademark management is set to enter a process of simplification. Passed almost unanimously, Motion 29 asked FSC to simplify its requirements and approval procedures related to trademark use. Once implemented, this motion alone may free up a huge amount of resources throughout the FSC system.

Enhancing transparency

Picking up on the trend of ultra transparency flagged on Sunday by Dr Sally Uren of Forum for the Future, Motion 45 sought to improve transparency in FSC audit reporting. As more certification bodies enter the FSC system, greater consistency in how they present audit information is needed.

As Berty van Hensbergen, President of SSC Forestry, pointed out, trying to determine where information is held within different report formats is a nightmare. Standardized report templates would also enable more efficient and effective analysis across different certificates, for example in assessing how stakeholder consultation was undertaken. Jens Kanstrup from Forests of the World urged support for the motion, saying: “this addresses a concern we’ve had for many years”. Motion 45 was endorsed.

Bringing smallholders and indigenous peoples on board

By passing Motion 11 and 83, members recognized the importance of opening the door to certification for groups that are, in practice, excluded.

Motion 11 asked FSC to review the its certification system in order to adapt forest certification to smallholders throughout the world.

Motion 83 called for a new approach to certification of indigenous groups and traditional communities, addressing challenges and creating social benefits for forest-dependent communities.

Kanstrup noted: “this motion addresses a problem that is recognized and not really dealt with. The FSC system is not working for a large part of smallholders, communities and indigenous people. Forests of the World have carried out some field testing to see if the requirements work for those groups. Our conclusion was that neither the principles and criteria nor the international generic indicators work. People are required to do things that they don’t understand. For example, forest-living indigenous people haven’t got a clue about what a union is. There are many similar examples. We need a completely different way of engaging these groups, and this motion is about creating the space to work on that”.

The subsequent passing of Motion 96 – “To reaffirm the civil rights of indigenous peoples, traditional peoples and local communities in the purpose of the organization” – further underlined the membership’s commitment to create a platform for those groups to engage with FSC.