Homo sapiens is firmly entrenched within the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) system as one of the three foundational pillars (environment, social and economic).

FSC is about humankind's interface with the natural environment. The FSC certification system caters to the interests of the forest as well as to the human. That interaction has as many contexts as human beings on the earth, and FSC acknowledges that it is entrenched in its system through diversity.

As we draw close to celebrating the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development on 21 May, we would like to share insights from an FSC perspective.

The rubber hits the road when the auditors go on site. Only through this audit process will we understand and appreciate the quality of the management, in its broadest sense, applied in that forest. This information is recorded in the public summary report, made available to stakeholders in their own language. There are very few, if any, other evaluation processes that present this level of transparency and immediacy to stakeholders.

Legends and religious stories are often associated with trees. Buddha is said to have meditated for many years in the shade of 'bodhi tree' or Ficus religiosa. In pre-Christian and Christian Britain, it is believed that the Yew tree protects those who seek shelter in its shade. The fact that trees are crucial to a healthy natural environment is one reason why they are sacred within the great faiths.
Religious orders have an enormous impact on the state of the world's forests. Religious Faiths own and manage large areas of forest across the planet. Religion and Faith feed into the many forests considered sacred by communities. It is estimated that about 15% of the world's surface is regarded as 'sacred land'. This, almost by default, invariably provides absolute protection to the environmental values contained in these forests.
In parts of South Africa, the Cabbage Tree or Cussonia spicata is considered a sacred tree and it is believed that anyone harming this tree will find themselves in harm's way. Even where these trees occur within planted forests, they always remain untouched during commercial harvesting of the other trees.

Race and Ethnicity
Race is a mechanism of social division, probably more than any other division within the human world. It brings prejudice that impacts directly on the lives of many people. The FSC process speaks explicitly out against racial discrimination in responsible forest management. More than this, FSC, as a global initiative, brings together people from all corners of the earth to deliberate on policies, standards, and processes that bring real meaning into the diversity within forest management. It provides a beautiful opportunity for all of us to learn something from human beings that we would otherwise never have known and to appreciate that the world is much larger, more complex and therefore excitingly diverse than what we are likely to find in our own backyard.

Sexual Orientation and Gender
The subtleties of sexual orientation and gender are often not so subtly supported in our human interactions, which would be no less true for forest management.
FSC certified operations are required to ensure that both these are accepted and respected as an integral part of responsible forest management. It does so through very direct requirements in terms of employment opportunities, protection against discrimination and safety from harassment.
Go to any modern forest management harvesting operation and see how nimbly women operate huge harvesting machines. They are often the preferred operators as it is considered that they work more gently and considerately with these machines thus reducing maintenance costs without compromising production.

Indigenous People
Indigenous People bring customs, traditions, language, race, and religion into sharp focus. In Sweden and other parts of Scandinavia and Western Russia, the reindeer-herding Sami people live nomadic lives, and forests are a critical component of their livelihoods. They own no land, much like many other indigenous peoples, but they access land owned by others, which brings inevitable conflict. As their needs are often not acknowledged through legislation, the burden of proof often falls to them. FSC changes all of that as their rights are enshrined explicitly in the forest management standards.
The burden shifts to the forest manager and owner. The overlap between the needs of the people and forest management objectives has to be carefully considered and, most importantly, agreed with these people, regardless of their land-owner status.
For the Udege people in Russia, it means that their hunting grounds are respected in forest planning and operations. In Japan, the Ainu people from Hokkaido island are still consulted even though they have been assimilated into Japanese cultures and systems.
For the Pygmies in the tropical forests of the Congo Basin, FSC certification means that their traditions and livelihoods are protected. Still, they are also provided opportunities for employment and upliftment, which is sorely absent for them elsewhere.

As the human race evolves, so does the need for more inclusiveness and engagement in ensuring that the importance of protecting and nurturing cultural diversity remains at the forefront of society's development.