New approaches for smallholders and communities certification project

In 2016, FSC established the New Approaches project to develop alternative and additional ways to support smallholders and communities striving to achieve certification.

FSC Smallholder Communities
FSC DK / Namibia

Project phases


2016 – 2017 Mobilize and launch

Engaging smallholders across the globe to co-develop a multi-year plan to improve access to certification and to markets.


2017 – 2018 Develop and test

A global team of experts focus on executing the plan and testing locally relevant solutions.


2019 – 2020 Scale up

Launch the best solutions, developing the capacity of the FSC Network to roll them out throughout the world.


2021 onwards

A new work area will be designed to reflect the new strategic positioning of FSC and ensure small forest owners and communities contributions to FSC commitments.

A summary of the project activities is available below. Most of our documents are also available in French. Please contact us.

New Approaches 2017 report
PDF, Size: 1.07MB
New Approaches 2018 Report
PDF, Size: 347.18KB
New Approaches 2019 Report
PDF, Size: 313.93KB
2020-07_FSC NA Smallholders Update_H1
PDF, Size: 1.00MB
2020-04_New Approaches_Factsheet_Asia Pacific Simplified Standard
PDF, Size: 666.59KB

Asia-Pacific Regional Forest Stewardship Standard for smallholders

Throughout Asia-Pacific, many thousands of smallholders with very small pockets of land dominate. Typically, people have limited education, are poor and know very little about forestry, yet rely heavily on the income from their land. FSC has been working in the region to develop a regional, simplified forest stewardship standard specifically for smallholders.The aim is to make sure many more smallholders can join the FSC system, which will encourage them to grow and look after trees.

2020-04_New Approaches_Factsheet_China pilot test
PDF, Size: 454.41KB

Chinese National Forest Stewardship Standard pilot test

Thousands of small forest owners in China want to use FSC certification but are being held back by a specific requirement of the Chinese National Forest Stewardship Standard (NFSS). This barrier is related to the International Generic Indicator 6.5.5 which requires certificate holders to set aside 10 per cent of their forest as a conservation area. This is a big ask of smallholders, many of which own less than two hectares of land which are often scattered in different places

2020-04_New Approaches_Factsheet_Collective Impact model
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Collective Impact model  - A methodology to find solutions together

For smallholders in the Tropics, it is hard to make forest management profitable. Their forests have a high diversity of species. And the market requires high volumes of just a few. So, FSC certification often does not provide enough financial benefits. Following up on previous experiences from Latin America region, FSC is now focusing on helping smallholders to become more efficient and successful businesses as a first step, seeking the right angle on accessing the market rather than seeing FSC certification as the immediate goal.

2020-04_New Approaches_Factsheet_Continuous Improvement procedure
PDF, Size: 647.24KB

Continuous Improvement procedure

Without sufficient resources and understanding, many smallholders and communities find it hard to fully conform with FSC standards. The concept of continuous improvement – whereby smallholders are able to take a step-wise approach to conformance, focusing on the most important criteria first and then working their way up – is not new; it has been used by other certification schemes. But FSC has been working hard to formalise an approach to continuous improvement in forestry that works for smallholders that want to make use of the FSC system.

2020-04_New Approaches_Factsheet_Forestry Contractors certification
PDF, Size: 550.95KB

Forestry Contractors certification

FSC has been exploring how it can improve access to certification for smallholders through the inclusion of forestry contractors into the system. Back in the Vancouver General Assembly in 2017, the FSC membership requested FSC to develop a solution for this through the motion 46/2017. Right now, contractors providing services to any forest management certificate holder are not included in the FSC certification framework. FSC has been trying to find an effective way of dividing responsibilities between a certificate holder, forest owner and contractor.

2020-04_New Aproaches_Factsheet_Group Standard Revision
PDF, Size: 580.34KB

Group standard revision

To facilitate access to FSC certification, in 2009 FSC created the possibility of certifying groups. By having several forests managed together as one certificate, the group manager can support the members in achieving sustainable forest management, and the economy of scale helps reduce costs. This is the main way in which smallholders are accessing FSC. After a minor revision in 2017, FSC decided to fully revise the standard at the end of 2018 to make it more relevant to small forest owners.

2020-04_New Approaches_Factsheet_Smallholders Access Program
PDF, Size: 428.02KB

Smallholder Access Program pilot test

In the Southern and Central Appalachian region of the United States, more than half of forest land is owned by private landowners, with 39 million hectares of forest smaller than 100 hectares. Commonly, the only forest management that occurs in these small forests is a harvest once every 40-60 years, so long-term forest certification, with annual audits, just doesn’t make sense for them. However, collectively, this group holds significant wood resources that, if certified, “would reduce impacts on environmental values, and help to address the demand from US-based companies looking to source local timber responsibly.

2020-04_New Approaches_Factsheet_Value chain approach for natural rubber latex
PDF, Size: 1.67MB

Value chain approach for smallholder-produced natural rubber latex

Unlike timber, it is hard to directly trace the source of natural rubber latex coming from different forests. FSC can certify rubber plantations. But the industry includes an unknown number of people acting as dealers and brokers who collect the latex from various forest owners before passing it on to manufacturers and processing facilities in an uncontrolled manner. This makes it hard to achieve a clean due diligence system required by FSC. However, the growing market for sustainable products, including the international tyre manufacturing industry, is increasingly asking for certified products.

All of the factsheets are also available in French. Please contact Vera Santos,