Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.49.23 AMLast week we wrote about the long-delayed update to the main Chain of Custody (CoC) standard of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  In our post, we call attention to the fact that 28,521 certified companies depend on the details of this standard for their daily business and encouraged FSC to finally reveal the changes that are planned.  A colleague from Germany wrote to point out that the number we used is actually too small.  Because many companies certify in cooperative groups, the actual number of certified companies is much larger:  not 28,521, but 49,277!

Some Hints on the Website

FSC’s webpage for the CoC update was finally updated this week, but very little detail is provided.  They include a cute little cartoon graphic, and a brief summary of some of the proposed changes.  They also announce a public consultation period that will run from 17 December 2014 to 24 February 2015.  But they do NOT provide a copy of the updated standard.  Does this mean that the discussion draft will finally be released on 17 December?  We do not know, but we hope so.

UPDATE (17 Dec. 2014):  The link above has been inconsistent today.  First it was returned to the old version (before this week’s update).  Now it shows a “broken link” error message.  Hopefully this means that our friends at FSC are finally posting a discussion draft for us to examine.  We will update this post as soon as something new is available.

UPDATE (19 Dec 2014):  It appears that the original web update that we wrote about above was prematurely released.  After a couple of days of confusion, the final webpage was released this morning – including a complete discussion draft of the new CoC standard.  We will have our analysis posted very soon.

Details Matter

FSC is an organization that prides itself on transparency.  But on this subject, they are falling very short.  The Chain of Custody working group has been working on this update for over 2 years, without any attempt to engage the many thousands of stakeholders who will bear the cost of implementing their work.  More recently, a draft has been circulating informally for many weeks – stimulating debate and discussion among a very narrow group of specialists.  The time has come to draw back the curtains and let the important discussion begin.

Adding Complexity and Cost

FSC staff have been advocating for additional measures designed to “strengthen” the CoC program.  This strategy promises to substantially increase the cost and complexity of the entire FSC marketplace and could result in weakening rather than strengthening the program.  We feel strongly that this approach is misguided and unnecessary.  A better approach is to simplify the standard, and introduce new accreditation rules designed to address concerns about credibility.  We will have more detail and specific commentary about the draft standard update as soon as it becomes public.