CERTIFYING SMALL FORESTS
Supporting small and community producers to become FSC certified
We certify forests big and small
So we understand that these forests are, in turn, managed by individuals and groups of all shapes and sizes. You may not know, for example, that nearly half of Europe’s forest land is owned by private individuals who often manage very small plots.
Those forest managers – known as smallholders or small and community producers – who take care of a small area of forest can include Indigenous Peoples, communities, and family foresters, who practice low-intensity forest management.
So what makes these small and community producers different to larger organizations? Firstly, they have the challenge of only being able to produce much smaller volumes, making it difficult to attract buyers. Secondly, these communities often rely on the forests for their livelihoods.
And as forests aren’t all one size, our certification cannot be ‘one size fits all’. That’s why FSC has a dedicated programme to support these types of operations in achieving certification: including simplified requirements, specialized technical guidance and training, and other resources.
Identifying small and community products
There is a story behind every FSC-certified product. But the stories behind products produced by small and community producers are extra special. Around the world, there are families, small communities, and some Indigenous Peoples working hard to manage their local forests responsibly and produce goods. These products are ‘made with heart’.
To make it easy for consumers to identify products produced by small and community producers, all products that are made with heart, carry the small and community label option (SCLO) label. Read the introductory guide to SCLO for smallholders here.
FSC defines small and community producers in terms of the area of their forests or the volume of timber they harvest each year. A small or low-intensity managed forest, or SLIMF, can qualify for streamlined auditing procedures that reduce the cost of the audit. Learn about the eligibility criteria for SLIMFs that certification bodies use to determine if a forest is eligible or not.
Making certification affordable
Created in 2013, the Smallholder Fund helps reduce the costs of certification for smallholders, by improving their capacity to achieve and maintain certification, strengthening their ability to benefit from the FSC system, and increasing the supply of FSC-certified materials. Resources are provided directly to smallholders and, to apply, applicants can either be FSC certified or in the process of becoming certified. (Find previous recipients of the fund here.)
To reduce certification costs even further, small and community producers that qualify as small in terms of area or low-intensity in terms of harvest can also form a group. Group certification makes it easier for small forest owners to become FSC certified, as it enables group members to share certification costs among themselves, reducing the cost and workload for each member related to achieving and maintaining an FSC certificate. Learn more about FSC group certification.
Additional guides and Resources
User-friendly guide to FSC certification for smallholders
FSC step-by-step guide
FSC Group Certification Toolkit - Supporting Documents (PDF)
SLIMF Eligibility Criteria Addendum
FSC forest certification - simple guide for forest stakeholders (IMAFLORA)
Chain of Custody Certification – for community forest enterprises (ANSAB)
Certification of Community Managed Forests (ANSAB)