The power of branding

Doing some research for a client on the subject of verifying the legality of wood products imported into the European Union markets.  I found myself reading publications and press releases on the same subject, circulated by two very different organizations:

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New FSC guidelines on “Free, Prior, and Informed Consent” for indigenous peoples.

Earlier this week, FSC-IC released a massive, 80-page guidance document on the complex subject of indigenous people’s rights to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC).  Folks who work with the FSC Forest Management certifications will be very familiar with this challenging topic.  I have only given it a quick scan, so don’t have any substantive comments to share.  I will admit to being a bit nervous about it’s implications.

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New FSC-IC Executive Director

Today I read an interview of the new staff director at FSC-IC.  It appears on the WWF Global site and, as you might expect, isn’t particularly hard-hitting.  I found it interesting, nonetheless.

Kim Carstensen is a Dane who appears to have a strong background in the environmental policy field, including (not surprisingly) a senior position with WWF.  He is – interestingly – a sociologist, and remarks in his interview on the need to improve the FSC-IC’s outreach and engagement of the social chamber.  I would agree that this “third leg” of the FSC stool has always been a bit weak.

When asked about challenges, Carstensen remarked on the ubiquitous problem of developing into the third world – particularly Africa.  Nothing new hear.  He also comments about the need for pursuing a “true balance” among the chambers.  I wonder what that might mean to him and the rest of the senior staff.  They’ve certainly been displaying a remarkable insensitivity to the Economic Chamber recently (see my earlier posts on the ILO issue).

The one subject that isn’t mentioned at all is complexity.  Is the FSC system becoming so internally complex that it may become self-destructive?  That’s a theme that deserves more thought and discussion.  It may be too much to expect from a softball interview of a brand new staff director.  Hopefully he’ll get to it soon.



FSC certification and tree nurseries

I got a ‘head’s up’ from a colleague in the Lake States.

FSC-IC has a draft Advice Note in the review process that deals with rules that forest landowners have to follow when they grow seedlings in nurseries.  This isn’t new, of course, it’s been talked about for some time.   Here in the US, where forest landowners don’t typically grow their own seedlings, but buy then from outside suppliers I’ve never considered it a big deal.

My colleague’s note made me read the advice note again more closely.  It took several readings (the thing is unusually badly written) to realize that there could be trouble here.  It seems to set rules for any nursery that supplies seedlings to an FSC landowner, including “nurseries that are outside, not adjacent to and not embedded within…areas submitted for FSC certification.”  Really?

Read it for yourself:  ADV-20-007-17 Draft 1-0

FSC has extended the comment period on this for another couple weeks.  I intend to provide some input.

Another attempt by FSC to self destruct?

I’ve been hearing rumors for months that FSC was pouring lots of time and attention into it’s online database for tracking certificates and certification.  When asked about it, I’ve been rather dismissive.  From the start the program has been well-intentioned, but rather naive and really hasn’t amounted to much.  Reasonably good for looking up and verifying certificates (required by the program) but not much else.

Just last week, however, some new updates have been released which suggest that FSC means business now.  They have released another Technical Update and even opened up a forum to roll out and vet their progress.

I’ll be looking this over in the near future and chatting with my contacts to figure out what it may mean.  Some initial reaction has been rather negative – assuming that FSC is poking its nose into business details where they don’t belong.  This may be an overreaction – I’m still not sure.

This is definitely another item to watch.  Please share any new insights you may have.

FSC confirms long delay in Controlled Wood streamlining.

Here’s a link to the latest FSC-IC Technical Update on the subject.

This is VERY disappointing and seems to confirm that the FSC Controlled Wood process will remain dysfunctional for the foreseeable future.  I have corresponded with FSC-US staff who are closely involved in this process and the delays seem to be mostly caused by a determination to maintain consensus agreements with “key environmental stakeholders”.

Another update from FSC PSU

I saw an email update today from the FSC International Policy and Standards Unit (PSU) staff.  It was issued informally (by email) and meant as a clarification of the Advice Note issued last week (see my 10/2 post).  The upshot seems to be that FSC will allow new Chain of Custody certificates to be issued in the US to companies who object to signing the self-declaration statement in FSC-PRO-20-001.  The new certificate would be issued, presumably, with an outstanding Major Corrective Action Request (CAR), which is rather odd.  The assumption seems to be that some acceptable solution to the situation will be arrived at before the new deadline of March 31.

So far I have not yet received word of any CoC company receiving a Major CAR for failing to sign the FSC statement.  One MixedWood client audited last week was surprised when their auditor failed to even bring the subject up.  We’re still unsure whether this was intentional or just an oversight.  I won’t name the Certification Body (CB), but I know they are fully informed as I’ve seen copies of correspondence recently.  It’s probably just a sign of the general confusion on the subject.

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