Here in the US, news outlets are very busy today, anticipating the arrival of a major winter storm which threatens to bury Boston and New York under 2-3 feet (60-90 cm) of fresh snow.   Combined with high winds, frigid temperatures, and coastal flooding, the storm should keep a lot of folks very busy this week.

At MixedWood’s office, in the mountains of Northern New England, we’re used to snow, and hoping the big, coastal storm will provide a few quiet days to catch up on some overdue desk work.  There is a lot going on in the world of Forest Product Certification:  here is a short list of topics that you may expect to read more about in the coming months:

FSC Chain of Custody:  STD-40-004 v.3.0

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 1.14.46 PMThe long-awaited discussion draft for FSC’s long-promised update to Chain of Custody was released just before the New Year.  We were surprised by the sheer number of last minute changes, and disappointed in the lack of progress toward the very important goal of simplifying the standard.  Click here to download and read our first comments and annotations.  We will have more in-depth analysis and commentary before the discussion period closes on 29 February 2015.

SFI 2015-2019 Standard Release

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 5.03.29 PMAfter and very-impressive start early last year, the process of updating the entire standard document for the SFI program ended up being something of a disappointment.  The initial set of discussion drafts released (to much fanfare) early in 2014 proved disorganized and awkwardly written.  An impressive consultative program in late winter and spring lead to 6 months of complete silence.  An “almost final” document was released in a limited way in September, followed by another 3 months of silence.  Official, though still not public, copies began circulating in December, followed by the official publication in the first week of January.

Because the new standard is normative and mandatory for new certifications from 1 January 2015 (a week prior to its publication), certification companies are scrambling to complete their guidance and checklist materials.  This process is made all the more challenging by the complexity and poor quality of much of the language.  We expect this will lead to quite a lot of questions and the need for official interpretations  and clarifications.

The SFI folks have scheduled a series of webinar and informational meetings, starting quite soon.  MixedWood has begun its analysis of the new standards and will be providing commentary here very soon.

FSC Controlled Wood & the US National Risk Assessment

The endlessly complicated revision of FSC’s version of Due Diligence continues without an end in sight.  MixedWood provided a summary of this multilayered process last June, and much of the detail remains as we reported then.  One very important new development was published this month, however, and deserves careful attention.  FSC-US has posted its first draft of a National Risk Assessment.  We have yet to give it careful analysis, but out first impression is one of concern.  It is massive and very, very complex.  To their credit, FSC-US staff have also posted an explanatory document that helps put things in context.  And they will be hosting webinars for stakeholders – beginning quite soon.

We remain very worried that the overwhelming complexity of this program is creating conditions that prevent practical participation by all but a small handful of stakeholders.  This could be a recipe for disaster.  We plan to call attention to this serious challenge in the months ahead.

A Serious Flaw Lurking in PEFC CoC

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.03.03 PMLast July we wrote an article on a potentially serious flaw in the PEFC CoC standard.  This standard has been long-since finalized and fully-implemented.  And PEFC released a very-detailed and almost-comprehensive guidance document to aid in interpretation.  But there remain three, mysterious clauses (5.1.7, 5.1.8, 5.1.9) that threaten to bring the whole system crashing down.

The key question is this:  should these three clauses be understood as applying within the context of a risk-based procurement program, or must they be evaluated for each and every transaction.  PEFC is silent on this question.  Certifiers are nervous. Auditors are puzzled.  Accrediting Bodies do not seem to have discovered the question at all.

Stay Tuned

It promises to be a very busy season, indeed.  Busy, interesting, and important, too.  Please let us know what  you think.