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…