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.

FSC and the ILO

A strange and increasingly frustrating conflict is emerging within the FSC community in the US.  It concerns the implementation of some new “social elements” in the latest version of the Chain of Custody standard (FSC-STD-40-004 v.2-1).  This latest version of the standard became effective a year ago, but was make mandatory as of 1 October 2012.  It includes a new section 1.5 entitled “Commitment to FSC Values”.  It looks like this:

1.5 Commitment to FSC Values

1.5.1 The organization shall demonstrate its commitment to comply with the Values of FSC as defined in the “Policy for the Association of Organizations with FSC” (FSC-POL-01-004, initially approved in July 2009).

1.5.2 The organization shall declare not be directly or indirectly involved in the following activities:

a)  Illegal logging or the trade in illegal wood or forest products;

b)  Violation of traditional and human rights in forestry operations;

c)  Destruction of high conservation values in forestry operations;

d)  Significant conversion of forests to plantations or non-forest use;

e)  Introduction of genetically modified organisms in forestry operations;

f)  Violation of any of the ILO Core Conventions, as defined in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, 1998.

To guide implementation of this new section, FSC also issued a new procedure (FSC-PRO-20-001 v.1-0).  Annex B of this procedure provides a required “self-declaration” statement which – as of this week – is required to be signed by all FSC-certified companies.

The problem:

For a number complicated reasons (USCIB summery – US law) this creates an unacceptable legal situation for many US companies.  The list includes some very prominent and recognizable names and key supporters of FSC-US.  An informal group of these companies have been lobbying FSC for at least a year – assisted by FSC-US staff – with little or no progress.  The conversation seems to have become a bit more focused recently (my 10/2/12 blogpost), but the parties still don’t seem to understand one another.  FSC European staffers seem genuinely puzzled that a problem even exists.

Will FSC self-destruct over such a small matter?  I doubt it.  But things could get interesting along the way.  Stay tuned…


Last minute action from FSC PSU on social indicators

The FSC international policy and standards unit (FSC PSU) issued a “PSU Advice” to Certification Bodies late yesterday.  It is meant to address a pending crisis among a number of large US companies who are objecting to the language a required self-declaration document now required of all CoC-certified companies.  The policy advice (FSC-PSU_Letter CBs_10.1.12) does what FSC does best:  it defers a decision to a later date.  But it doesn’t defer it much.

MixedWood has a couple of high-profile clients who have scheduled surveillance audits coming up in the next few weeks.  Because they do not plan to sign the FSC statement, their auditor will have to raise a major non-conformity.  Ordinarily, major NC’s have to be closed within 3 months.  This advice memo extends this due date until March 31 of next year.

Will this turn out to be a non-issue or a major crisis?  My best guess is that we’ll find out on March 30.

20 years?

Katie Fernholtz and Jeff Howe just posted an interesting and worthwhile commentary on the Dovetail, Inc. website.  It’s worth a read:

I’m note quite sure which anniversary they are celebrating.  The FSC website designates 1993 as their founding year.  I distinctly remember the early days of the SFI program in 1994-95.  How ever you slice it, we’ve been at this a long time.  I expect that we’ll be seeing more retrospectives like this in the next year or two.

Inside a shoebox…

Here’s something I happened upon while shopping for shoes the other day:

Of course, I pay more attention to these things than most people do.

My first impression wasn’t very positive.  The concept behind “OUR FOOTPRINT” is a good one.  Timberland seems to be making an attempt at taking responsibility for their environmental impact.  But the details are a bit weak.  Use of renewable energy: 6.67%.  Is this good or bad?  And what on earth is an “Eco-conscious material”?  The opposite of an eco-unconscious material?  The fact that Timberland has (apparently) planted somewhat more than 900,000 trees in the last 4 years might sound impressive, but as a forester I find this sort of claim the weakest of all.

The best quality information can be found by following the link at the bottom of the tag:  This site is interesting, and suggests a well thought-out and sincere program.  It’s worth a look.

SFI in the news: What did they miss?

Yesterday, a client sent me a link to this interesting news story by CBC television

The piece has an engaging title:  “The Toilet Paper Chase”.  I am impressed at their technique of following a common and very familiar household product from the store shelves all the way back to the forest.  Unfortunately, they failed (in my opinion) to avoid the typical two dimensional approach that TV news usually takes to complex subjects.

I think FSC got a pass here.  The introduction mentions that SFI is one of several green “eco-labels” that consumers find on product like toilet paper.  It even mentions FSC by name and briefly flashes the logo a couple of times.  Some FSC products – including one brand of toilet paper – are even shown; but only fleetingly.  It looks like SFI and Irving took it on the chin for being bold enough to display their brand proudly.  That’s a shame.

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