A new FSC standard for group certification of forest operations is being finalized, and FSC sent out the final draft for public consultations.
The draft demonstrates that FSC is committed to ease the road to certification for smallholders.
A previous limitation on indiidual property size to maximum 10,000 ha has been removed, and the current draft does not set any limits on individual property size, size of the total group area, or the number of group members.
This is good news for smallholders, since inclusion of larger operations in the group alleviates their costs of certification. Instead, there are requirements related to monitoring intensity, training, and written commitments to comply with the rules need to be signed by all group members.
Group entities are classified into three groups according to how they divide the group's responsibilities internally, and the specific requirements for internal monitoring are adjusted to each type. For groups consisting of Small and Low Intensity Managed Forests (SLIMFs), it is accepted that the group members and the group entity divide responsibilities for compliance with FSC requirements. This can be relevant in terms of e.g. set-aside areas, monitoring, and stakeholder consultation.
The next steps
This approach goes much further than the previous draft version of the standard as regards facilitating smallholders' access to certification while maintaining credibility of the FSC system.
As a next step, it would be good to see a formal FSC standard for contractors working in FSC certified forests. Several projects led by NEPCon are currently exploring the potential of combining group certification with contractor certification as key tools for facilitating smallholder certification.
Also, the current comprehensive reporting requirements for forest management assessments and audits often seem out of proportion when groups consisting only of SLIMF properties are concerned. The need for extensive reporting naturally translates into a higher cost of certification for the group members. Reduced reporting requirements in these cases would support the inclusion of SLIMF groups in the FSC scheme.
Provide your comments
Comments are invited until 20 June. You can find information on how to submit your comments here (on the FSC website).