When I first tried to accept ideology of voluntary forest certification, I was wondering that the model is historically unique. Something like efforts of three groups of people in a bloody war for the same piece of treasure to come to consent agreement. I was thinking: what should suddenly happen with desire of each group to get and personally possess the treasure ? Why they turn able to change their mind after centuries of bloody battle ? Respond was almost obvious: because each group in the war seeks sustainability as a core essence of existence. And each understand, that it is impossible to cancel enemies up to zero – they will always exist with their opposing interests. So there is no other choice but to come to compromise.
And now, on my first General Assembly, which was 20-th since FSC establishment, I found really unique democratic model of peaceful relations between global groups of people, all interested in existence and conservation of the natural forests. Although all three are interested in different values of the forest: one and most rich needs timber or dear trees, second needs live trees and ecosystem services for local communities and third insists to stop deforestation and forest degradation. Well, we have this entire FSC society, sometimes looking like family with deep friendly relations between those who is making money from timber and paying for FSC logo and services. We have extremely sophisticated system of standards, indicators, auditors, accreditation, risks assessment, financial relations and marketing tools, we have tons of documents, millions dollars flow over the world, came from timber markets. We have intensely growing areas of certified forests, including operations in the intact \ high conservation value forests (HCVF), specially protected by our Principle 9 and growing volume of certified timber products.
Butwhatwehavethere, intheforests ? We have sustainable loss of intact forest landscapes (IFL) all over the world, despite all our efforts, standards and loss of money to protect them. Here is scale of the problem: FSC share in IFL loss by Greenpeace assessment of proportion in FSC FM certified areasfor some forest rich countries for 2000-2013:Canada - 9,1%, Russia - 10,9%, Gabon - 10,8%, Republic of Congo - 20,7%, Cameroon - 24,3%. Important note: due to wide spread of FSC controlled wood system,real share of FSC in IFL loss may be several times higher.Full evaluation of FSC role in IFL loss is not possible now due to FSC secrecy andlack of transparency:
a) maps of certified areas are available not for all FM certified concessions;
b) areas of wood supply, certified with FSC controlled wood, usually are unknown
These two issues and problems, raised by Greenpeace – IFL and controlled wood system reliability – became the topics for core discussions in the huge set of events and sessions of Assembly week. Also, they brought a key context into strategic plan of FSC, which got birth after joint voting of the whole 3 chambers. Totally supporting voting for so called “motion 65” on IFL, became famous during the week in all lobbying talks, was met by the long stormy applauding. It happened, although meant serious additional work for auditors, consultants and extra expenses and efforts for companies. As well as for Greenpeace activists themselves as key stakeholders. The point is that standards as they are, even very strict and detailed, will never work properly without constant and professional pressure, both on the company and auditors, from civil society and local communities. And only strong regional NGOs can initiate such public control, providing trainings, guides and consulting. In our vast forest areas, expanded from Russian North-West through Siberia and Far East we have more or less reasonable control of operations in our intact forests only if there are active local or national forest concerned NGOs in the region. It happened, that Greenpeace is active enough in North-West, WWF – at the Far East, and no serious group involved into forestry issues around Siberia, besides Altai region. So, amount of violations of principle 9 there is reportedly especially high, as well as illegal use of FSC logo for unclear amount of controlled wood.
As it was highlighted by some experts, there are now two opposite ways of forest use: forestry and wood mining. One is Forestry - the science, art, and craft of creating, managing, using, conserving,and repairing forests and associated resources to meet desired goals, needs, andvalues for human benefit. This economic activity is similar to agriculture. Another way may be called Wood mining - the practice of wood extraction from intact natural forests- extremely complicated self-sufficient ecosystems and landscapes,that can not be restored with all human science, art and craft. This economic activity is similar to oil, gas or coal mining.And, by those experts, the concept of sustainable management is applicable for forestry, not for mining."Sustainable management" is a misleading name for IFL development.Logging in IFL is a pure example of wood mining,and now there is a time toabandon it, hopefully with help of forest certification. By Greenpeace and other NGOs, FSC should be more forestryfriendly,and ensure maximum protection of intact forest landscapes.
Anyone understand that current situation is too far from real implementation of
Principle 9, and it will be extremely difficult to turn it back and fit initial idea of FSC
about sustainable forest management and HCVFs.It is obvious, that some transition period is needed - may be some years. But FSCmust be clear, that after this transition period it will come back to the initial idea ofPrinciple 9 - "management activities in high conservation value forests shallmaintain or enhance the attributes which define such forests". Some exceptions for "IFL-fragmentation" threshold should be based on the same rules as "forest-plantations" threshold (conversion affected a very limited portion ofthe area of the Management Unit and is producing clear, substantial, additional,
secure long term conservation benefits in the Management Unit.Greenpeace is ready help to reach it, but FSC must show that Principle 9 is not lessimportant, than any other principles and criteria.But, we should also keep in mind that, if IFL will be not certified at all by the most strict and radical approach, they will be left out of any control, and destroyed or burnt rapidly. So, enforcement role of FSC certificate also make serious sense.
One specific problem, which we constantly point out and raise on any FSC meeting, is direct financial dependence of auditors on certified company. For us such system unavoidably leads to corruptive junction between auditor and company and actually cause lack of objectivity in the process of evaluation forest management quality. We ourselves have many examples of auditor’s behavior, when auditor don’t pay attention upon serious violations or declining from standard’s requirement. Companies perfectly use their right to choose certifying body by their own and select always the same one with the same friendly auditors. Our suggestion to strategic plan of FSC was to create, at least on the national level, special intermediate foundation between company and certifying body. Company should invest certification fee to this foundation, and independent Board of foundation, including different stakeholders, will select certifying body for certain company, and rotate them or auditors regularly to avoid friendly junctions. This suggestion was not accepted by General Assembly in the full size, although norm of rotation auditors during 5 year period was adopted.
One significant trend which I pointed out at the Assembly as very positive part of FSC strategic development was new attention of certifying society to ecosystem services of the forests. Well known problem of it is complexity of monetary or other evaluation of such services, which may be cultural, emotional or recreational. But, some experience to evaluate them existed in the World Bank institutions many years ago, and may be learned and adapted to FSC system in framework of new standards. This will help local communities and forest management units better, if more complex and comprehensive way evaluate forest ecosystem versus primitive evaluation of timber only or even non timber products quantity.
FSC, as any system invented by human beings, is not perfect and is always in the processof development. And it’s efficiency depends on all of us, who lives with the forest, by the forest, for the forest and thanks to forest.