Print responsibly,
use FSC certified paper.

DRS Consultation
A public consultation on the guiding and normative framework for the Dispute Resolution System


FSC’s Quality Assurance Unit launched a public consultation on the guiding and normative framework for the Dispute Resolution System (DRS) from the 1st of October to the 1st of December 2013. 

This document reports on the outcome of that consultation and the changes that have been made in the DRS normative documents based on the analysis of the comments received.

This revision was needed for the following reasons:

  • The normative documents which constitute the present DRS were approved in 2009. Over the past four years, they have been through minor revisions but it is only in the past two years that FSC has tested them on the ground. The complaints that we have managed highlight shortcomings and the need to make the DRS more effective.
  • Many stakeholders think that the DRS is too complex. There is a clear demand for simplification at all levels. With this revision, we aim to streamline the procedures and eliminate aspects that stakeholders find confusing.
  • The language of the DRS documents should be improved and inconsistencies addressed.

Three key changes to the DRS were proposed through the consultation:

  • FSC-STD-01-005 FSC Dispute Resolution System would become a Guidance Document.
  • There would be no procedure for informal complaints. FSC-PRO-01-008 would be used for all complaints with the exception of FSC-PRO-01-009 that would be used for Policy for Association (PfA) complaints only.
  • The ‘Guidance for Panels evaluating complaints under the Policy for Association’ (FSC-GUI-01-004) would be integrated into the ‘PfA Complaints Procedure’ (FSC-PRO-01-009). 

Stakeholder participation
FSC received comments and proposed text changes from seven (7) stakeholders, while one additional stakeholder only provided a general observation. In total ninety-three (93) issues were brought up. FSC would like to thank all the stakeholders who provided comments for their valuable contributions which led to the improvements indicated below.

The stakeholders belong to the following groups:

  • Members: environmental chamber North (2 + 1 only general observation) and economic chamber North (2).
  • National Offices (2)
  • Consultant (1).

Stakeholder comments

1. Of the three proposed key changes to the DRS (see Introduction), the latter two did not receive any comments. The DRS normative framework will therefore consist of three Procedures, dealing with Appeals, Complaints against FSC and Policy for Association Complaints. The former Guidance document for Complaints Panels (FSC-GUI-01-004) ceases to exist as a separate document and is now part of the PfA complaints procedure (FSC-PRO-01-009).

2. A number of stakeholders commented that by changing the DRS standard into a Guidance document, the principles and processes described in the document would not be normative anymore. This is correct. FSC therefore decided to transfer the overarching guidance document, i.e. the definitions and terms, the basic principles and requirements and the illustrative flowchart into each of the three individual procedures. Thereby the corresponding elements become normative (or remain so compared to the current form of a separate standard document), but retain their guiding function by their more generic nature.
An additional advantage is that stakeholders who want to lodge an appeal or a complaint from now on only have to consult one document as each procedure contains the information that was until now spread over a standard and a procedure (and an additional guidance document for the PfA).

3. Instead of the Guidance document, it is planned to develop targeted communication tools explaining the FSC dispute resolution system in a summarized and illustrative manner.

4. The wording and structure of the three procedures have been aligned, following comments from stakeholders that different ways of formulating may create confusion. Also the submission forms have been harmonised.

5. As FSC encourages that disputes be resolved at the lowest level possible, meaning stakeholders should endeavour to resolve disputes first with the certificate holder (CH), it was requested that the FSC dispute resolution system should also clearly indicate that the CH must have a complaints procedure. However the FSC DRS procedures are not the appropriate place to stipulate general requirements for CHs or CBs. Instead, the FSC DRS procedures reflect the relevant requirements existing in the FSC certification scheme and determine how appeals and complaints are submitted to and managed by FSC.
Requirements for CHs to follow with respect to the complaints received need to be part of a certification standard. The new IGI framework might be the most appropriate space for relevant provisions. As regards the subsidiarity principle, this is in fact addressed to the extent possible in each procedure. 

6. Some stakeholders asked if FSC will keep records of the handling of disputes by all parties (including CBs and ASI). FSC plans to develop a complaints register but would need to revise relevant standards first, making it a requirement for CHs and CBs to register all the complaints they receive. The work on the development of a complaints register is planned to begin in the second half of 2015.

7. National Offices commented on the role that Network Partners can play in the DRS system and how they may be affected by disputes in the FSC system. A new clause was added stating that FSC will inform Network Partners in countries where stakeholders may be affected by a dispute. 

8. Concerns were expressed about the possibility for FSC to extend timelines when managing an appeal or a complaint. In the corresponding clauses of the Appeals and Complaints procedures conditions for extending timelines have been added.

9. A number of comments concerning the Policy for Association complaints procedure, led to textual changes or additional text. Not all comments could be treated and in those cases the stakeholders were referred to the PfA consultation process that will be held later this year. (This separate consultation process was initiated in early September 2013 to revise the FSC-POL-01-004 Policy for the Association of Organizations with FSC and the FSC-PRO-10-004 Due Diligence Evaluation for the Association with FSC). 
 
10. The changes made in the first draft (D1-0) of the Procedures will be presented on the Dispute Resolution webpage (https://ic.fsc.org/drs-consultation.667.htm) in track changes as the Procedures numbered D2-0. 

11. The new versions of the three Procedures can be downloaded from the DRS Overview webpage (https://ic.fsc.org/overview.151.htm).

#Revised DRS documentsPrevious versions
1 FSC-PRO-01-005 (V3-0) EN
Processing Appeals
FSC-PRO-01-005 (V2-1) EN Processing Appeals
FSC-STD-01-005 (V1-0) EN FSC Dispute Resolution System
2 FSC-PRO-01-008 (V2-0) EN
Processing Complaints in FSC Certification Scheme
FSC-PRO-01-008 (V1-0) EN Processing Complaints in FSC Certification Scheme
FSC-STD-01-005 (V1-0) EN FSC Dispute Resolution System
3 FSC-PRO-01-009 (V3-0) EN
Processing Policy for Association Complaints in the FSC Certification Scheme
FSC-PRO-01-009 (V2-1) EN Processing Formal Complaints in the FSC Certification Scheme
FSC-STD-01-005 (V1-0) EN FSC Dispute Resolution System
FSC-GUI-01-004 (V2-0) EN Guidance for Panels evaluating complaints under the Policy for Association
Decision to endorse the three revised procedures

The stakeholder consultation provided valuable feedback on the revised draft DRS documents. This led to the integration of the Guidance document (current DRS Standard) into each Procedure, which was the major change made after the consultation. Some edits were also made as well as the addition of text and a few clauses, but these did not substantially change the issues at stake.

Documents with track changes