Monday, 12 March 2018
Ensuring responsible forest management through certification
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification system has been around for over 20 years. The FSC issues three different types of certificates: Forest Management, Chain of Custody and Controlled Wood. The different types of certificates relate to different stages of production and subsequent progress of forest products through the value chain. Verification against all FSC requirements ensures that materials and products with the FSC label are from responsibly managed forests.
The FSC does not issue certificates itself. Independent certification bodies carry out the forest management and chain of custody assessments that lead to FSC certification. FSC sets the standards for forest management and chain of custody certification, and defines the procedures that certification bodies should follow in their certification assessments.
The Certification Bodies
In Africa there three accredited certification bodies namely Soil Association Certification Forestry (SACF), Rainforest Alliance and SGS South Africa who have been carrying out forest management and chain of custody assessments for over 20 years.
“Soil Association Certification Forestry (SACF) has been carrying out Forest Management (FM) and Chain of Custody (COC) certification assessments worldwide since 1996 as well as carrying out training and capacity building in certification with over 60 representatives and associated organisations in over 50 countries worldwide” said Marie-Christine Flechard who is a Certification Manager for Soil Association (SA), in charge of the African portfolio.
She adds that SACF has seen a growing interest in certification for both FM & COC in Africa, but this is yet to be realised in terms of number certificates effectively been issued.
“Historically FSC certified organisations have mainly been concentrated in Southern part of Africa and of interest and resources have also been developed to support certification in the Congo Basin which has a large forest concession. The setting up of an FSC Africa office has raised the profile of FSC on the continent, as well as increased the knowledge and understanding of FSC systems and requirements by potential certificate holders” she added.
Based in Accra, Ghana, Sandra Razanamandranto who is the Africa Regional Director for Rainforest Alliance says her organisation has been conducting forest management certification globally since the early 1990’s and achieved FSC accreditation in 1996.
“Our FSC work began in Africa in 2005 in Cameroon and 2006 in Ghana, West Africa” she added.
According to Gerrit Marais from SGS Certification and Business Enhancement unit, the requirements and associated compliance levels in 1994 were very different to now and the competencies have improved across the spectrum, both in expectations and compliance.
“The FSC process is considerably more demanding than any of the other schemes not only forestry that SGS is involved with. This is likely because the scheme is owned by many stakeholders from across the board, all with their own demands.” says Gerrit
FSC is the only global forest certification system to have an integrated accreditation program that systematically checks its certification bodies. Accreditation Services International (ASI) is responsible for checking certification body compliance with our rules and procedures through a combination of field and office audits. All FSC accredited certification bodies must meet the FSC accreditation requirements
Marie-Christine says the accreditation process is vital and forms part of the daily work and is embedded into Soil Association system. “Without the accreditation process Certification Bodies won’t be able to operate & interpret the FSC framework. The accreditation process sets the “playing field” for all CBs so that we all operate under a common set of rules and implement those rules in a consistent way across all the CBs.” She added.
Sandra says for Rainforest Alliance Independent accreditation is important and provides a systematic basis for evaluation. “ASI has been rolling out more creative solutions for risk and corresponding sampling. Additionally, there should be broader reviews conducted beyond the isolated exposure to very few individual audits conducted through on-site witnesses. ASI has been developing more techniques in this regard as well”.
All three Certification Bodies have witnessed by ASI in 2017