Market News


Wednesday, 02 March 2016
Motion 12 Working Group updates

As stipulated by Policy Motion 12 of the 2014 Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) General Assembly (GA) – a motion that was supported by the Environmental, Social and Economic chambers – a chamber-balanced working group was established to address conversion related issues.


The working group was established in May 2015, and has met twice – in September 2015 and last week, 16-19 February 2016. It also held a webinar with its consultative forum, in between the two meetings, at the end of January.

The problem to be solved

We started our work by facing an uncomfortable truth: FSC's current approach has neither stemmed the tide of conversion around the world, nor has it brought responsible forest management to workers and communities on lands converted since 1994.

This is well articulated in the RECON paper and Motion 12, and has shaped the working group's terms of reference (ToRs) (all documents available by request).

How far along the process are we?

The working group has identified key components that could potentially be drafted into a future “policy on conversion.” It includes the following guiding principles:

  • conversion should generate social as well as environmental benefits
  • to be certified, conversion must deliver a "net gain" in environmental and social benefit
  • compensation measures relating to past conversion (post 1994) shall be additional to legal requirements and FSC's Principles and Criteria
  • responsibility for compensation measures for past conversion remains with the certificate holder/applicant
  • the same applies in relation to future conversion - whoever undertakes the conversion remains responsible for the implementation and success of mitigation measures

Based on these principles, we have generated the following:

  • a clearer definition of conversion that applies to forests and other ecosystems
  • new safeguards in relation to social issues/indigenous peoples and affected communities, including the application of FPIC on proposed compensation and mitigation measures
  • affirmation that areas necessary to maintain HCVs must be safeguarded
  • a commitment to safeguard other forests, but which don't meet the criteria of HCV
  • an agreement to retain the 1994 cut-off date

When can members participate?

Conversion has been one of the FSC’s most challenging issues for the last 20 years. We strongly encourage you to participate in this important process by joining the consultative forum and/or scrutinising and submitting comments on the working group’s proposal in April 2016.

Newly joined members are also encouraged to join the consultative forum. If you’d like to participate, please e-mail Pasi Miettinen, at p.miettinen at fsc point org.

Your comments will be needed on outstanding issues

There are still issues where the working group have not reached a consensus. These include the following important considerations:

  • We are concerned about the concept of compensating for conversion off the Management Unit. We feel confident in our approach towards future conversion where the rules can insist on mitigation measures being implemented on site. But what about past conversion? We can imagine instances where on-site compensation measures are harder/impossible to deliver. We have debated this at length and would like to share our thinking in future, but in the interim we will ask you to give consideration to the question of what to do with Managements Units that are unable to mitigate for historical conversion within existing Management Units?
  • Equally challenging is the question of how best to incorporate the needs of smallholders and communities. How should FSC differentiate between those who have converted small tracts for legitimate subsistence reasons and those who are converting large tracts 'on behalf of' another enterprise?

The working group also discussed the situation and aspects relating to smallholders and community forests, along with related issues. As a result, we look forward to sharing the details of our approach that is intended to better promote their inclusion in the FSC system. We believe we will have something that it is simple to understand and simple to implement.

Your input into these issues will be important. And we are looking forward to receiving your ideas and suggestions during the consultation in April 2016.

Your comments will be needed on deciding how to decide

It is clear that understanding the local context will be vital in making decisions about any conversion application. But how do you balance responsiveness to that local context with global consistency?

We identified two options. The first was to create a set of rules so comprehensive they would cater for all geographical contexts - not our favoured option. However, the preferred option, is that FSC should develop a highly transparent and robust decision making process which has to be followed by all parties. To develop such a process is considered beyond the scope of the working group’s terms of reference, but it did identify features we will ask FSC to consider, including:

  • stakeholder confidence in the system is essential and this will require developing a highly transparent process and outcome
  • determine which decisions are better made at global, regional/sub-regional and/or national levels
  • how to resource this process so it can be properly managed/coordinated, with impacts being recorded and analysed, in keeping with the principle of continuous improvement

Again, the working group aims to consult FSC members about the proposal in April 2016 (the exact timing is subject to change). Spanish and French translations will be available. It will be important the members provide their feedback. And any change(s) to the Principles Criteria will, of course, be subject to members' vote - through electronic voting or at the 2017 GA.


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