Wednesday, November 22, 2023
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The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) commissioned its assurance partner Assurance Services International (ASI) to conduct an investigation to better understand concerns raised by stakeholders about the encroachment of industrial forestry into Sweden’s old growth forests with high conservation values. The affected areas include FSC-certified forests and areas where FSC controlled wood is sourced.
Over the past few years, environmental stakeholders have been voicing their concerns through FSC and ASI’s respective complaints and incident handling systems about logging in areas designated as woodland key habitats in Sweden. Acknowledging the complaints received by certification bodies, ASI and FSC agreed to launch an investigation in April 2023.
About woodland key habitats in Sweden
Woodland key habitats (WKH) are specifically designated areas in the Swedish forest landscape which are rich in biodiversity. The National Forest Stewardship Standard (NFSS) in Sweden explicitly provides protection to WKH that are a part of FSC-certified forests because they are considered to be a proxy for high conservation value areas. According to FSC’s Centralized National Risk Assessment (CNRA) for Sweden, controlled wood certificate holders are required to conduct conservation value assessments as part of the site planning to ensure that wood from WKH does not enter the FSC system.
The investigation’s findings
The provisions in FSC Sweden’s normative framework – the NFSS and CNRA – about the protection of WKH are not rigorous enough to ensure that wood from these areas is not harvested.
The findings of this investigation also show that the complaints are partially driven by external factors:
ASI’s recommendations for improving the FSC system
There is a need to strengthen the NFSS so that forest management practices can be audited more rigorously. It is recommended that during the next revision of Sweden’s NFSS, the requirements for identifying and protecting WKH and areas rich in red listed species are strengthened.
To ensure that controlled wood certificate holders avoid purchasing timber originating from WKH, the CNRA for Sweden should be amended to include preharvest conservation value assessment as a mandatory control measure for sourcing controlled wood. FSC should develop a system to facilitate early-stage identification of WKH.
Due to the active engagement of various environmental sector stakeholders in the FSC Sweden system, the resolution of disputes and grievances would benefit from more engagement opportunities around issues like delineation practices for WKH.
This investigation also revealed a need for centralizing the complaints redressal mechanism in the wider FSC system. Development of a centralized repository of complaints received across the system would enable various stakeholders involved in FSC’s certification system to coordinate the redressal of grievances and complaints in a more efficient manner.
Read more news on: FSC