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FSC Core Labor Requirements

While the protection of workers’ rights has always been part of FSC’s principles and mandatory for forest management certificate holders, the new FSC Core Labor Requirements have now also been included in the FSC Chain of Custody standard (FSC-STD-40-004-v3-1).

One goal of the FSC Core Labor Requirements is to level the playing field for companies across the FSC system. While the United States has a strong set of labor protections, many countries do not. The new standard will raise the bar for companies in countries without strong protections. This change, which was supported by the FSC Membership, is an important part of sustainable development.

FSC certificate holders must demonstrate conformance to the FSC Core Labor Requirements, which cover the abolition of child labor, elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor, elimination of discrimination with respect to employment and occupation, upholding freedom of association, and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.

COC Certificate holders must be able to demonstrate (to external third-party auditors) that they are implementing the new requirements in their operations, including:

  • Adopting policy statement(s) that encompass the FSC core labor requirements
  • Implementing these requirements in their operations
  • Describing this implementation, and identifying evidence of implementation, in self-assessments (which are verified by auditors)

Because federal laws in the United States cover the FSC Core Labor Requirements, companies complying with US laws are considered low risk for non-conformance with the FSC Core Labor Requirements. This is a key outcome of a calibration meeting FSC US held in August 2021 with Certification Bodies (CB) in the US. CBs in the US plan to use a risk-based approach when assessing US Certificate Holders to the FSC Core Labor Requirements. Unless there is evidence that a company is not complying with US laws, US certificate holders will experience a reduced level of required effort (compared to companies in countries with less worker protection) for both: a) providing evidence that demonstrates conformance, and b) auditing. More information is included in the US-specific self-assessment.

The transition period for the new version of the FSC Chain of Custody Standard (FSC-STD-40-004-v3-1) begins September 1, 2021. Both versions of the standard are valid during the transition period, but all certificate holders must be audited to the new standard by December 31, 2022.

Resources for COC Certificate Holders

FSC US and other FSC Network Partners are finalizing country/region-specific self-assessments, which are intended to point certificate holders to information that will help them to demonstrate conformance.

Additional resources available from FSC International on their Chain of Custody web page (look for download and viewing options at the bottom of the web page):

  • Recordings of FSC International webinars.
  • FSC Core Labor Requirements Q&A document. This set of Q&A will be supplemented with additional questions and answers over time.

Please contact FSC US (info@us.fsc.org) with questions that are not addressed by the above resources.