FSC Canada, FSC US, and FSC International co-hosted an FSC Forum in Vancouver on May 7th. One of the sessions was on company engagement with smallholders with presentations on the Smallholder Support Program and case studies on company engagement and group smallholder certification from India, Canada, and the US. The case study from India illustrated the company/community partnership between a pulp company and a local agricultural community whose land was very unproductive. The company worked with the community to use a mix of plantation forestry and cropping to stabilize soil erosion, increase nutrients, and make their lands productive assets again.
Orrin Quinn presented the Ecotrust group certificates in Canada, highlighting how they have worked with small forest owners to optimize the cost efficiencies of group certification and help them find markets for their products (for example, selling log homes to Europe). Ecotrust was the focus of an interview article for the special GA edition of the Smallholder Update, and you can find out more about Orrin’s work in the Smallholders Update archive. Finally, Ian Hanna, FSC US, presented the case of Columbia Wood Products Group in Oregon, New England, and Appalachia. They are working with small forest owners to organize them into FSC group certificates and supporting the group with management assistance and certification. In turn, Columbia is making a long-term investment with landowners in an effort to supply their mills with FSC fiber. This case study will be the focus of a National Woodlands Owners Association magazine article this year.
In all of these presentations, the underlying message was that group certification for smallholders work better when companies get engaged. Companies can be buyers of the certified products, sources of managerial and technical support, facilitators of financing and investment opportunities. As well, they can be sources of funding for projects that enhance the social and environmental benefits of certification and can facilitate new market opportunities for smallholders. In return, companies can get more access to FSC certified products to meet demands from their buyers and consumers, can achieve their Corporate Social Responsibility objectives, and can create new market and communication opportunities to talk about their commitment to responsible forest management.