Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 1.17.11 PMLast month we wrote about a troubling and quite public debate that has been brewing in the press and social media recently.  It concerns challenges and concerns  being raised by some Canadian timber companies (in particular, Resolute Forest Products) and involving major international ENGOs, a Quebec government minister, and the president of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  We are writing again because this issue is important to the whole FSC community – not just those who follow the Canadian press.  Also to call attention to some additional independent commentary on the subject that we have seen recently, and to share some related ideas of our own.

If you missed our first post on this subject (FSC, Resolute, and Canada’s Boreal Forest), please take a few minutes to click back and read it.  It is an interesting story and worth your time.  It is also a story that is still evolving.

Recent Press Commentary

The first commentary we want to recommend was published in the Globe & Mail on 31 Dec.  Konrad Yakabusky makes some very good points here; calling the recent drama a “bush war” that Resolute cannot win.  We tend to agree on this point, and also on the perverse effect that ENGO pressure and FSC complexity may be having on the Canadian wood products sector.  Very troubling ideas that do not get enough attention.

Another piece is found in yesterday’s addition of the Financial Post.  This opinion piece by Peter Foster doesn’t mince words.  Foster refers to the ill-fated 2010 Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement as “rancid” and compares FSC certification to a “protection racket”.  We do not agree with either of these points, but we are impressed by his well-organized summary of the whole situation.  He does a particularly good job of calling attention to the many folks who bear responsibility in this saga and correctly suggests that simple assignments of blame rarely leads to a good outcome.

Collaboration, Consensus and the Problem with the 3-Chamber Model

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 9.38.22 AMThe great strength of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is its membership-based governance model.  But that model contains an important, and potentially fatal, flaw.  By assigning equal weight to each of three chambers – Environmental, Social, & Economic – FSC guarantees that its business stakeholders always participate as junior partners.  Resolute and its counterparts represent  an interest that is absolutely essential to the success of the FSC.  Whether we agree with their arguments or not.  Whether we agree with their tactics or not.  It is essential that they are heard, respected, and accommodated.

The ethical principals and standards of practice that form the heart and sole of the FSC must always represent a consensus of its entire membership.  The moment FSC allows itself to function as a regulating agency – imposing burdens on the the Economic chamber to satisfy the interests of the Environmental or Social – it will begin to fail.

Consensus is difficult, frustrating, and often unsatisfying.  But we have all worked too long and too hard to give up now – have we not?