Technical Updates

Saturday, 31 July 2010
New US CoC Group Member Eligibility Requirements

This week, the FSC Policy and Standards Unit approved a 5-year pilot program for expanded eligibility by US small businesses in FSC Group Chain of Custody (CoC) certificates. The pilot was proposed by FSC-US and was the subject of considerable research and stakeholder consultation last fall. As a result, FSC Group CoC certificate programs are now available to any small business with annual forest product sales less than $5,000,000, regardless of the number of employees.

The Group CoC Policy was originally created to allow small companies to be part of the FSC CoC certification system without bearing the full costs of maintaining a FSC CoC certificate. The primary objective is to create an affordable program that allows companies to prepare for and test the market for FSC-certified products. Small companies find many benefits in being part of a group. In addition to the cost savings, Group CoC programs often provide templates and tools to assist companies to become FSC certified, and can provide expert guidance and engage in coordinated market development efforts. For FSC, Group CoC programs expose a larger numbers of producers, employees and consumers to the FSC brand.

While the Group CoC Policy has been in effect worldwide for all current and potential Group CoC Certificates, such programs have been underutilized in the US due to the restrictive eligibility requirements. FSC members approved a motion at the 2008 General Assembly that provided for flexibility in the policy because the definition of a “small business” varies from country to country. FSC-US engaged current Group CoC certificate holders and other stakeholders to develop appropriate national eligibility requirements which resulted in the new $5 million maximum. FSC-US is the first FSC National Initiative to receive approval for a five-year pilot test.

The pilot program for eligibility contains other conditions. If a group member surpasses the sales threshold in a fiscal year, its membership becomes ‘Transitional’. Transitional membership in a group certificate is allowed until growth beyond the threshold is documented for two consecutive years. At that time, the individual entity is no longer eligible to be part of the group certificate and shall pursue and transition to an independent certificate in order to continue in the FSC CoC program. New group members must fall under the threshold before joining or creating a Group CoC certificate.