WWF welcomes new Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest management standard in Russia

Posted on 25 September 2020

This week, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) published its new national forest management standard in Russia, the principles of which are based on economic, environmental, social criteria. The new standard will enter in force in March 2021, regulating the work of certified companies.
WWF welcomes this news and the new standard, which will help set new milestones for environmental and social responsibility for forestry companies operating in Russia. The new standard will make it possible to protect intact forests and conserve the biodiversity of forest ecosystems more efficiently, and as such, will improve the management of production forests.  One of its strengths are independent audits of certified companies, which will help make the certification process more open and transparent for concessions and other stakeholders involved such as environmental organizations and eco-activists, local communities, and forestry authorities.

"WWF-Russia has been actively participating in the development of the new national FSC forest management standard. Many of our proposals to improve sustainability requirements of forest management have been taken into account. Although FSC certification in Russia still needs further improvements, it is an active mechanism that contributes to the conservation and sustainable management of the country's forest resources. By applying the FSC standard, forestry companies learn to take care of forests and their biodiversity, " says Andrey Shchegolev, WWF-Russia's Forest Programme Director, and a member of the FSC Russia Сoordination Council.

For consumers, the FSC logo on wood or a wood product indicates that the product comes from environmentally and socially responsible forestry.  The new national standard is mandatory for all FSC-certified forest licenses , whose number in Russia is growing every year. In 2020, Russia became the first in the world in terms of FSC-certified forest areas (over 54 million hectares certified), overtaking Canada, a long-standing leader. The total annual volume of certified products in Russia today exceeds 50 million m3.

WWF-Russia, along with other environmental organizations, timber companies and social organizations, continues to be actively involved in improving the quality of FSC certification in the country. WWF participates in  the Technical Committee for the development of the national FSC standard and in the FSC Russia Coordination Council. WWF also  conducts field trips to audit the quality of biodiversity conservation by certified companies and publishes their results.

Based on WWF-Russia’s recommendations, the new national FSC forest management standard now includes:
  1.  a detailed national interpretation of the HCV concept, including a classification of types and subtypes of such forests, a brief description of the features of their allocation, and additional sources of information for each subtype;
  2. a detailed and specific description of the methodology for working with HCV, including mapping, a procedure for stakeholders interaction and information search, the principle of gradualness, the precautionary approach, choice of HCV protection measures etc.,
  3.  a new approach to Integrated Forest Landscapes (IFLs) that establishes percentage indicators to fully conserve IFL areas, and also describe possible forest management options for the IFL areas that are included in logging sites. In addition, the standard contains two regional methods for IFL zoning: for the Russian Far East and Siberia;
  4. a more detailed description of biodiversity conservation measures to be applied during logging, and  the inclusion of a standard list of biodiversity objects  to be  used as a basis for similar lists of specific forest areas where ongoing logging operations are taking place;  
  5. a new approach for determining the level of sustainable timber harvest, that is, to calculate the annual allowable cut (AAC) based on the previously, developed by WWF´s sustainability calculator.
However, although the new national FSC forest management standard has significantly improved in comparison with the previous version; it contains a number of controversial elements that have resulted in wide response from  the timber industry.

"Some concepts and approaches that have been included in the new national FSC forest management standard may initially create difficulties for certified companies in Russia, since most of these inclusions refer to new international FSC certification requirements that are globally applied. In Russia, they have not been tested yet, so it is too early to say how effective they will be on the ground. Only after the new principles have been put into practice, it will be possible to determine which ones require further development and adaptation to the Russian reality, and it will help stakeholders to maintain an open dialogue when identifying further steps to improve the national forest management standard," concludes Shchegolev.
Boreal forest, Russia
© Cristine Tugova / WWF-Russia