Newsletter Stories

Wednesday, 19 April 2023
FSC Forest Management Group Standard

By: Thomas Kain and Amy Clark Eagle

FSC’s Global Strategy identifies “Streamlining policies and standards towards outcome orientation” and “Scaling up benefits for Indigenous Peoples, communities, smallholders and workers” as priorities. One of the ways we are achieving these goals is by updating the FSC Forest Management Group Standard, which allows groups of individual properties to be certified under a single certificate. The result is to reduce the costs and administrative barriers to FSC Forest Management certification for family forest landowners and group managers. Group managers develop and maintain rules, policies, procedures, and other essential tasks.

Recently, the Forest Management Group Standard changed in several ways, with the introduction of risk-based decision making, sharing standard requirements across a group, and other efficiencies.

The use of a risk-based approach for determining the sample size of group members that must be audited during the annual internal and external group audits is an example of streamlining. FSC does this by creating two categories of properties – active and inactive – based on whether there has been a site-disturbing activity within the last year. Under the revised standard, a greater percentage of active properties are to be audited, compared to inactive properties. This reduces the cost and administrative burden for the group by reducing the number of properties to be sampled or visited before and during the annual audits. Another cost-saving allowance permits remote monitoring for inactive family forest units rather than on-the-ground site visits.

The way groups conform with Criterion 6.5 – which relates to conserving and restoring sites that are representative of native ecosystems – offers another move towards streamlining. Intended to conserve environmental and cultural values that would naturally occur within the group’s properties, the revised standard makes it possible for the properties of a group to share this responsibility (rather than requiring the values on each individual property). If one or more family forest member of the group is unable to identify a site for conformance with Criterion 6.5, other members of the group can designate a higher percentage of their properties for these conservation objectives to make up the difference. This flexibility allows the desired conservation objective to be obtained across all group members.

The ability for groups to include forestry contractors as group members is a third change to the standard. This creates the possibility for a group manager to allocate responsibilities for standard conformance to forestry contractors for individual properties, provided that the contractor presents the necessary inspection and tracking documentation to the group manager. This eases the administrative burden on the group manager while improving the efficiency of reporting and monitoring, which can also streamline audits, as only one service provider (e.g., the contractor for the group) needs to be audited instead of a different one for each property.

The changes to the Forest Management Group Standard as implemented are achieving the goals of FSC’s Global Strategy; they have streamlined processes, reduced costs, and provided additional flexibility for group members and managers to meet the rigor and objectives of the FSC standard. In this way, FSC is supporting family forest landowners who are managing their properties responsibly. The updated standard can be found at […].