FSC International – Forests for All Forever

Facts & Figures

200,025,086 ha certified
38,333 CoC certificates
1,639 FM/CoC certificates

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New approaches for smallholders and communities certification
Designing an FSC system for, and by, smallholders

© FSC GD / Christian Irrgang

During its 25 years of operation, FSC’s smallholder programme has developed organically over time as adaptations of the large-scale FSC model.

Our work has provided real benefits to a multitude of small forest owners across the globe (see section “Providing Real Benefits” below). While we have achieved many successes, we have not wholly succeeded. We have learned that large-scale cannot be adapted effectively to small-scale; and we have learned that what works for small forest owners in one context, won’t work in others.

Meeting the need for internationally recognized solutions that are locally relevant

Backed up by calls from our members and guidance from FSC’s Global Strategic Plan 2015-2020, we knew we needed a new approach to smallholders to meet the needs of the peoples and communities that have called the forest their home for generations.

We have risen to the challenge with two core values: any new approach to smallholders and communities certification must be innovative and evolving in ways that are new to FSC and to the global forestry industry. And it must be fundamentally grounded in the realities of small forest owners, forest-based communities and Indigenous Peoples across the globe. With this in mind, the New Approaches for Smallholders and Communities Certification (New Approaches) project was born.

Enabling smallholders to design a certification system that works for them

The New Approaches project aims to develop a modern, dynamic, and participatory approach to certification within the FSC system. We need to listen, learn and partner with smallholders and communities to help them find their own solutions to the challenges they face. We will use our strength of bringing diverse groups together to enable smallholders and communities to design a certification system that works for them, in their context, while balancing their needs with the overall requirements to maintain the integrity of FSC certification.


FSC defines smallholders as small forest producers, and local and traditional communities and Indigenous Peoples engaged in FSC-certified value chains.

This definition includes forests held by local communities, small woodlots and plantations, and forests managed for low-intensity wood and non-wood harvesting.

Opening the door to local and global markets

By taking what has worked over the past 25 years, and combining this with current innovations and solutions, and the real needs of our stakeholders, we know we will succeed.

The New Approaches project is a highly coordinated effort within the FSC system that draws resources and expertise from all areas and levels of the organization to meet the multiple, differing, and sometimes overlapping, needs of smallholders. The New Approaches project is being rolled out in phases.

Our first phase – Mobilize and Launch – involved engaging our smallholders across the globe. Those already certified under FSC’s smallholders umbrella, all have one thing in common: they produce a small supply of products, which makes it difficult for them to access local and global markets.

One of our first goals was to map our smallholders’ market-related needs so that we can work with them to develop new solutions to tackle the challenge of selling their goods on an efficient scale.

Our second (and current) phase – the Develop and Test phase – is focused on analyzing different options to streamline FSC´s certification requirements (Normative Framework); increase market access and raise market share (Market Development); and, through all the processes, engage, communicate, develop local capacity, and fundraise (Enablers). 

Our third phase will incorporate the results gathered from the initiatives, while continuing to pursue relevant new concepts. The best solutions will be expanded to make them globally available as quickly as possible. 

Further details on the project set up, work streams and activities can be found in the 2018 Update report and the 2018 Report and 2019 Plans document.

Ongoing activities

The New Approaches project is actively implementing several initiatives, focused on analyzing and testing alternative ways to support smallholders and communities achieve certification. The following fact sheets provide a summary and quick overview of each of these activities.


Contact Information

For more information on the New Approaches project, please contact Vera Santos, New Approaches Project Manager at FSC International, v.santos@fsc.org.