FSC has released a revised version of its product classification standard that is used to define companies’ product groups as well as to feed into the FSC database info.
The list of product types has become substantially longer and now offers an impressive number of options for classifying your FSC product. For example, the list of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) alone covers 57 different product types, ranging from chemicals and cosmetics over cork, rattan and bamboo products, to rubber products such as pillows, tyres and footwear. As many as eight different edible product types are included: nuts, tea, palmhearts, mushrooms, fruits, syrup, game, and honey.
The classification occurs at one, two or in some cases three levels, depending on the product type. For example, “charcoal” only occurs at Level 1 as there are no sub-categories, while there are 13 sub-categories available for the Level 1 product type “indoor furniture”.
Market linkage benefits expected in due course
The purpose of the re-classification is to help buyers find suppliers of specific FSC products in the FSC database, and to provide enough categories to enable all certified businesses to select a meaningful category for their products. With its numerous options, the new classification certainly makes it easier for certified companies to select a category which is relevant for their business.
However, the FSC database (fsc.info.org) is not yet aligned with the new classification. For example, the word “Cork stoppers” (Product type N3.4, level 2 in the classification) leads to zero hits, although there are suppliers of this product in the database. According to FSC, this is because the system is in a phase of transition.
Policy Manager Lucia Massaroth of FSC International Center explains: “The certification bodies need to update the database based on feedback from the companies. Once this is in place, we can improve the search function". So a bit of patience is in order: work comes first, benefits come later!
Needed actions by certificate holders
Certificate holders now need to revise their product groups according to the new standard. The standard has entered into force immediately and the deadline for implementation is 1 June 2012. It is recommended that companies switch well in advance of the deadline, as the new classification may in some cases necessitate changes in other documents as well, such as annual volume summaries.
Certificate holders should choose the product types in the list that offer the closest possible match to their products. Companies can choose to classify their products at any of the available levels, a new option that many will appreciate.
FSC has already updated the product information in the FSC database according to the new classification, using a cross-reference list. This has been done as an interim step and in many cases broad categories have been used. Discrepancies between your revised product group list and the database will be discovered and corrected during the following annual FSC audits. However, we recommend that certificate holders check the accuracy of the information in the FSC database as soon as possible.
How to check if your product is correctly registered
After you have revised your product group list using the new classification, we recommend that you check whether the information in the FSC database is identical with your list. You can check this in less than 5 minutes by following the steps below:
1. First of all, download the FSC product classification and decide which of the available product types best match your products.
2. Go to the FSC database info.fsc.org.
3. Type in your company name, certificate registration number, or license code in the relevant field. Click 'search' and your company should appear in the results.
4. Click your company name, and more detailed information about your company appears.
5. Choose the tab "product data". Check the categories "Product class" and "product type" to see whether the FSC database information about your products is correct and complete.
6. Notify your certifiation body if you find errors or need to add further products to the database.