Why does FSC oppose the proposal for an ISO standard on forest products?
1. The proposal is poorly written, confusing and possibly misleading: it aims for sustainable forest management (FM), has concrete ambitions to promote that, while it also says it focuses on chain-of-custody (CoC) only. So it is doubtful whether the objective is for a CoC standard only. Voting for this proposal is voting for a confusing and potentially broader agenda.
2. The proposal will not lead to more sustainable forest management and could even have perverse impacts: it is not clear whether an ISO CoC standard would only facilitate (FSC or PEFC) certified forest materials, or whether it would set its own FM standards. In that case it could undermine current efforts to further increase credibly certified forest area in the world.
If the proposal is indeed focussing on CoC only, it is likely to be based on the assumption that CoC currently is the bottleneck in promoting sustainable forest management. FSC does not share that view. Most efforts need to go to promoting sustainable forest management itself, which cannot be done through a global ISO standard.
3. The proposal is not necessary: there are no “lots of initiatives” as indicated in the proposal: FSC and PEFC cover 98% of the market. Also, both FSC and PEFC have fully functioning and well recognised certification systems.
4. The proposal would add complexity and costs: It says to focus on improvement of existing standards and cost savings for CoC users. This is not realistic. FSC and PEFC CoC are in the core of the matter: tracking materials and conditions for claims quite similar. An ISO standard would emerge next to the existing ones, adding complexity and costs (e.g. expensive ISO trainings, costs of buying ISO standards). Also, FSC CoC standards are not pure traceability standards since they are also designed to incentivise certification of forests and small CoC enterprises. If the FSC loses the ownership/control over the standards we may lose opportunities to promote forest certification.
5. An ISO standard is not in the interest of industry and consumers seeking responsi-ble behaviour.
The ISO standard would not increase the recognition with consumers for sourcing from sustainably managed forests. FSC adopts ISEAL codes and has own procedures for standard development reflecting FSC’s unique governance model. FSC sets standards with active participation of social and environmental stakeholders whereas ISO is mainly industry driven. There is a risk of decreasing stakeholder support to forest certification if ISO procedures do not ensure the same level of stakeholder engagement and participation in standard setting.