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Monday, 18 March 2013
Forest Stewardship Council International Board Members meet with stakeholders in Delhi

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Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) held its 62nd International Board Meeting in Thekkady, Kerala from 11 to 13 March 2013 in association with Kerala Forest Department, Quality Council of India and Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts. In this context, the FSC International Board of Directors participated in a Stakeholder Consultation and Seminar on FSC Certification in Delhi.

A full day forum was held on 15th March at the Lalit Hotel, Barakhamba Avenue, Connaught Place, New Delhi. The participants were officially welcomed by Dr T R Manoharan, FSC National Representative for India who gave an overview of the FSC activities in India, showed the rapid growth of FSC certification in India and the potential for growth in the short term both in Chain of Custody and Forest Management. FSC India has set a goal for certifying 1million hectares of forest by 2017. Dr Michael Conroy, Chairman of the FSC International Board of Directors welcomed the guests on behalf of the Board and thanked India for the invitation and that he was hopeful for continued collaboration in the future.

Mr Kim Carstensen, Director General of the Forest Stewardship Council, addressed the guests and congratulated the success of FSC in India so far but also emphasized the enormous opportunities for FSC in India and the important role that India would play as an emerging economy in growing FSC certification in the future, both on the international and domestic markets.

Mr Arvand M Singh, Inspector General of Forests, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India stressed the need for FSC to engage actively with government in order to grow certification in India.

India is a major exporter of handicrafts and Mr Rakesh Kumar, Executive Director, Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts highlighted the scheme that the government has introduced in which 75 % of the costs of certification is paid for by the government (Ministry of Textiles) and a target has been set to support further certification among SME’s in the wooden handicraft sector. Already 150 manufacturing units in Jodhpur (Rajastan state) benefit from the scheme.

The first session on building FSC supply in India was chaired by Mrs M Renstrom, Vice-Chair of the FSC International Board of Directors, who asked the question: ‘How could India increase the area certified to keep pace with the demand for certified products?'. The panel discussion focused on discussions on how to build supply from small growers, the role of green public procurement, corporate procurement and creating socio-economic benefits for small growers, in particular. A few large Indian Paper corporations already started ambitious programs to support smallholder certification through FSC group certification.

The first afternoon session was focussed on stakeholder consultation around the constraints and opportunities for Smallholders and SMEs, and was chaired by Mr Hans Djurberg, FSC International Board Member. Mr Djurberg set the tone for the discussion by emphasising the strategic importance for FSC of overcoming the challenges for Smallholders. The presenters from WWF / GFTN India, Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts and a representative of private landowners provided points of view and ideas for strategies, direct experiences and the challenges facing producers of wooden handicrafts, in particular. Some constraints to be addressed are the ability for the smallholders to organise themselves, the costs associated with certification and the recognition. Opportunities are to increase the awareness of FSC, for increasing government involvement, and to aligning the FSC rules and requirements with conditions in India through national processes.

The third session looked at the experience of Certification Bodies in India and was chaired by Mr Jamie Lawrence, FSC International Board Member. Mr Lawrence posed the question on supply and demand and on how the demand could be matched if there was not sufficient supply coming from India.

There are some initiatives being driven by the paper industry, and there is a lot of interest from the handicrafts sector on how they could respond to the demand for certified products. The need for domestic market initiatives was identified. However, if market campaigns are implemented, then what must be done to ensure that the products will be there. There is opportunity for new species, for young forester employment creation as auditors, for example, and for targeted approaches to particular industry sectors such as board manufacturers.

A final panel session summarised the outcomes from the day as being the increasing demand for timber and timber products and the increasing gap between supply and demand, and the issues facing small growers. There are opportunities in bringing small growers into certification and in collaborations between producer organisations, certification bodies, government and the private sector. There is great possibility for all to learn and exchange and Carstensen concluded by saying that India is an ideal country for FSC to work in.

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