According to Richard Donovan, Vice President of Forestry at the Rainforest Alliance, FSC members don’t see certification as the silver bullet, but they also don’t see anything else as a silver bullet. And FSC isn't just a talk shop. Thoughts at the close of the 6th FSC General Assembly.
FSC General Assembly 2011
Editorial by Richard Z. Donovan, Rainforest Alliance
The FSC’s 6th General Assembly in Malaysia sent the message, once again, that whether the issue is tree plantations and conversion, intact forests, Controlled Wood, or integrity of work by Accreditation Services International (ASI) or FSC accredited certification bodies, the FSC continues to listen to the issues and take them on, in its unique and different “FSC way”.
The interplay between the 400+ participants in the General Assembly in Kota Kinabalu illustrated, once again, how the members – and even observers – come together, vehemently debate in civil fashion, often disagree, and then ultimately put forward consensus driven ideas for change, in the form of motions.
These ideas are then voted on – a straight up-down process that has very clear, quantitative chamber balanced results. The critical issues addressed by this GA included Controlled Wood, transparency, the robustness of FSC’s policy & standards system, the impacts of large scale forest operations in natural forests and plantations, and more effective engagement with indigenous peoples and retailers.
None of the above seems to be done by FSC as a palliative, i.e. make a symbolic statement and move on…as if talking alone is enough. Whilst some observers act as if they know exactly what the solutions to forest degradation, deforestation and community livelihoods are, FSC members (with what I sense an enormous amount of humility) just don’t believe the answers are as simplistic or straightforward. They don’t see certification as the silver bullet, but they also don’t see anything else as a silver bullet.
I had many conversations with numerous members about this; collectively and individually, FSC members acknowledge the system is far from perfect and we will make mistakes. But FSC members – representing social, economic and environmental individuals and organisations from over 70 countries – seem just as committed as ever to action and change, and they see, based on their own experience on the ground, FSC certification as part of the toolbox to address forest issues.
They seemed to be saying to the outside world – keep criticising, keep indicating concerns and suggesting solutions – the system will listen, take new ideas on board, push for change, and change will happen.
FSC is unique in that, even as we were meeting in Kota Kinabalu, forest audits were going on in the field; FSC staff and network were working on moving forward with long-awaited FSC’s modular certification effort, etc. In other words, FSC isn’t just a “talk shop”. As a certification system and multistakeholder initiative, FSC does the “governance” piece better than any others I have been exposed to.
It is certainly lively. The end results are balanced. However frustrating it is to hear about some issues again and again (such as interim standards, certification body quality), in Kota Kinabalu FSC did the governance piece well, again. It now needs to do the “management” and “impacts” aspects better. The scale of FSC efforts is hugely different today from 6 Assemblies ago; but so is the potential for positive impact. Now, building on the results of this 6th GA, let’s get on with it…
Richard Donovan, Vice President of Forestry, Rainforest Alliance
Watch a live interview with Richard Donovan recorded at the FSC General Assembly: