Monday, 15 July 2002
Cooperative Efforts Get Certified, Gain Momentum
Wood-related cooperatives around the world are looking to FSC certification to advance their missions of local economic development. Co-ops facilitate the sharing of marketing and sales expenses for small businesses and landowners, and help ensure a more constant supply to markets. Co-ops interested in certification operate as commercial enterprises that seek to generate profits for their members to financially empower them to be good land stewards.
FSC group certification enables co-ops to share the administrative requirements and costs associated with the program. FSC certifies groups of small landowners, owner associations, and smaller forest management companies for responsible forest management (FM), and groups of small businesses, trade associations and cooperatives for tracking their use of certified wood, known as chain-of-custody (CoC) certification. In addition, the FSC Resource Manager (RM) program certifies natural resource professionals to write management plans for their clients that want to sell their timber as FSC-certified.*
In the Midwest, with more people buying woodlots, average property size is decreasing, making it harder for individual property owners to generate enough timber profits to pay for proper land management. The Sustainable Woods Cooperative of Wisconsin is comprised of 150 private landowners in eleven counties. CoC-certified in 2000, the co-op owns a sawmill, solar kiln, and hardwood manufacturing facility that turns members’ timber into FSC-certified products. “Certification of co-ops is one tool to assist non-industrial private forestland owners in addressing issues like fragmentation and land use change, by potentially creating new and better markets for certified wood," says Phil Guillery, Forestry Project Director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Vermont Family Forests holds a group FM certificate that covers 31 properties totaling 4,718 acres in nine towns. Ranging in size from 32 to 1,757 acres, the properties collectively supplied almost all of the lumber used in the construction of Middlebury College’s science center.
Maine Woodnet, a co-op with 31 member companies that produce a variety of products, recently earned CoC certification. “Group certification is a great way for small businesses to get involved in FSC because the firms can help each other. Small businesses also may be more flexible in modifying products to meet the needs of customers, so now we have a variety of new certified products. Another great match is linking the FSC image of environmental and social soundness with the “Made in Maine" image — which is quality craftsmanship and the great outdoors," states Eric Howard, Executive Director of the Maine Wood Products Association.
The 22-member Massachusetts Woodland Cooperative, currently owns about 3,000 acres, and is in the process of getting FM certified the assistance of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Created through a grant from the USDA Forest Service Northeastern, its mission is to maintain the environment and character of western Massachusetts though the protection, enhancement and careful economic development of the region’s forests.
FSC-certified co-ops also exist in Japan, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Philippines. The following groups offer more information on group certification:
Community Forestry Resource Center
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Cooperative Development Services
The FSC policies for group chain-of-custody and forest management certification are in the documents list at www.fscoax.org.
*For more information on RM certification, go to www.fscus.org.