"I consider it an honor to participate in this important process," Bill commented. “Most of my work revolves around developing national and regional certification standards. While that function is critical, ensuring quality control by inspecting the work of certifiers is just as important. Since audits are conducted by FSC International in Oaxaca, inclusion on an audit team indicates a valued confidence in my professionalism."
Unlike some other quality verification systems, such as ISO 14000, FSC maintains its own internal quality control mechanisms. A rigorous system of accreditation and periodic inspection is detailed in the FSC Accreditation Manual. Desk audits and at least one field audit are conducted yearly for each accredited certifier, which in the U.S. includes SmartWood in Vermont as well as SCS. Last year Bill participated in a field audit of SmartWood in Oregon and a desk audit of SCS.
“One thing I like about field audits, as a forester, is the opportunity to get an in-depth look at exemplary forestry on the ground," Bill noted. “But desk audits are also quite interesting because of the variety of operations that have been certified, large and small, in all areas of North America and across the globe."
Conducting an audit is a demanding process. According to Bill, the audit team must spend at least a full workday familiarizing themselves with an operation before the audit takes place. During the several days of the actual audit the team puts in long hours doing the actual inspection, and late nights coordinating and comparing notes in after-hours debriefing sessions. After the site visit, team members coordinate in the preparation of the report, which is released to the certifier usually about a month after the audit.
The team leader for the SCS audit will be Karen Tam. Karen, now a private consultant working out of British Columbia, was formerly an employee of FSC and has served in this function for FSC for several years. “I am very pleased to be working with Karen again," said Bill. “These audits require a meticulous attention to detail and a thorough knowledge of FSC requirements. Having a team leader with skill and experience is vital for maintenance of the consistency and quality that characterize the FSC brand."