Posted on 19 June 2020
Two-thirds of the stakeholders surveyed in Ukraine were neither involved nor even aware of FSC certification.
Climate change is producing more extreme negative impacts on larger forest areas, local economies, human well-being and biodiversity than predicted. Fragmentation caused by infrastructure development also plays a major role in forest health, and consequently habitat degradation and destruction. Given the drastic diminishment of global forest cover, the concept of untouched or virgin forests might seem misplaced. However, forests, and particularly old-growth forests, are critical to life on Earth. This is why WWF Central and Eastern Europe (WWF-CEE) is working to identify, map, and achieve both legal and voluntary protection (FSC) for old-growth forests and achieve responsible forest management throughout the region.
conducted a study aimed at summarising current practices of stakeholder engagement in the FSC forest management certification procedure in Ukraine. The study also developed recommendations for improving such practices.
International forest management certification systems promote the sustainable management of forest resources. Forest certification is a mechanism for forest monitoring, tracing and labelling timber, wood and pulp products and non-timber forest products, where the quality of forest management is judged against a series of agreed standards.
One such system, and the system promoted by WWF, is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
certification which aims to ensure forest management that is economically viable, socially beneficial and environmentally responsible. The FSC standard includes detailed indicators for conserving natural habitats, including those that would qualify as old-growth forests. For example, certified forest enterprises identify and protect representative sample areas of native ecosystems to best capture adaptation to natural conditions. The forest managers are also requested to manage the landscape to maintain and/or restore habitat connectivity, and to maintain a mosaic of species, sizes, ages, spatial scales and regeneration cycles consistent with natural forest types and disturbance patterns in the region.
The WWF-Ukraine study showed that the level of stakeholder participation (including activists, scientists, local communities and environmental organisations) in certification procedures is low. Two-thirds of the stakeholders surveyed in Ukraine were neither involved nor even aware of FSC certification
. Furthermore, only half of the certified forestry companies mentioned that external observers attended the evaluations (audits). These facts prove that the existing stakeholder engagement practices need to be improved.
Effective stakeholder engagement is one of the cornerstones of properly functioning FSC forest management certification. If this step is omitted, the transparency of the certification procedure, as well as the consideration of different interests and the sustainability of forestry management can be called into question.
Reason behind low level of stakeholder engagement in FSC certification in Ukraine
At the national-level civil society the underdeveloped and proper law enforcement is lax. This situation has resulted in a lack of security guarantees and opaque forestry management. Despite the fact these problems do not directly concern certification, the unsatisfactory level of stakeholder involvement is one of the consequences.
Ukrainian stakeholders are often unaware of the existence of the FSC certification or have a distorted and limited understanding of certification procedures. Opportunities for participation in the process have not been properly advertised, clear informational materials and educational activities have not been developed or implemented, and certain stakeholders have just not been invited to the table.
Lastly, stakeholders may not even have the desire or motivation to participate in certification procedures due to an underlying mistrust of auditors or past negative experiences in the certification process.
Improving stakeholder engagement practices
Some of the above-mentioned problems are related to the imperfect work of certification bodies, which is why improving the professionalism of their work should be a priority. For a mutual understanding of the benefits of constructive solutions in the framework of forest certification, there is a clear necessity to develop accessible and understandable information materials for stakeholders as well as practical trainings with both the forestry industry and other stakeholders. There are many positive examples of cooperation between certified forestry companies, auditors and stakeholders. Furthermore, it is important for forestry companies and certification bodies to develop up-to-date lists of stakeholders.
In the course of our work, we have also identified 18 cases that illustrate the positive and negative examples of stakeholder involvement in FSC certification. Further recommendations and results of the study can be found in the report
Good practices: credible forest certification schemes
FSC is a voluntary mechanism. The efficiency of the FSC certification scheme is directly proportional to the level of stakeholder engagement in the certification process
. For example, do the forest managers constructively engage in public consultations for forest identification and management? Is there a transparent complaint mechanism?
In Central and Eastern Europe:
The ‘tick tree’ logo indicates that products are certified according to FSC standards and allow consumers to purchase wood, paper and other forest products produced from well-managed forests and/or recycled materials.
For more information:
- To date, 200,000 High Conservation Value Forests, a classification related to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, have been identified in cooperation with forest managers and companies;
- 150,000 additional hectares of forest and 209 new companies were certified according to the FSC standards in 2019;
- 8.9 million ha, i.e. almost 40% of the forests in our region, and a total of 1,800 companies are now FSC-certified to date;
- the 8.9 million ha is already 300,000 ha beyond our target for 2022 (but the situation might change due to stronger standards); and
- FSC certification of Slovakian forests increased by 31% in 2019.
Forest Communication Officer,
Tel: +380 985762844