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FSC General Assembly

In a unique characteristic of the Forest Stewardship Council, the organisation holds a General Assembly (GA) every 3 years. These large events include members from all three chambers (Environment, Social and Economic) from around the world, this year attracting between 500 and 600 attendees. The GA is a vital underpinning and distinguishing feature of the FSC system as it is the main venue by which the direction and policy of FSC is determined.

This year Kit Richards, Environment Manager for PF Olsen attended the GA over the 8th -14th October in Vancouver, Canada. In all there were 5 attendees from New Zealand, representing the economic, social and environmental chambers.

In summarising what was an intensive week, Kit says: “There appears to be an important transitional shift in the collective thinking of FSC and its membership which if executed should see a more positive and useful outcome for those who have trodden the FSC pathway in New Zealand for a number of years.  There was evident a very pervasive undertone that the perennial issues of cost, complexity and rule-making churn must be resolved if FSC is to not only stay relevant to its current members, but to grow substantially and become much more significant in addressing the problem of poor and unsustainable forest management”.

Key observations:

  1. FSC at last seems to be maturing as an organisation with an apparent trend toward the chamber members acting in a more consultative rather that political and adversarial fashion, albeit tensions were present.

  2. The FSC secretariat has and is continuing to, put a lot of effort into a strategic plan, better governance and improved communication.

  3. The strategic plan has correctly identified many of the issues that have made FSC so frustrating and limited growth and uptake and the chambers seem to be more prepared to accept that the objective must be to follow the plan and allow the Board the freedom to execute it without distraction.

  4. The strategic plan now places large emphasis on:

    • Avoidance of continued overloading from rules and added complexity and cost.

    • Focus on simplification and streamlining.

    • Use the digital world to improve systems and transparency.

    • Increase size and market presence of FSC to make it relevant and useful to certificate holders.

    • Solve the problem of cost and complexity for small holders.

  5. If they can deliver on the plan FSC is likely to have a much brighter future.

  6. There were 71 motions to be passed but a large proportion were withdrawn by the time it came to a vote.

  7. Ultimately there was only a half dozen that had potentially serious implications for NZ. All ended in a satisfactory position.

One item that will be of particular interest to PF Olsen clients was the progress being made on a risk-based approach to pesticides management and the trial models coming out of work related to small holders. While there remains work to be done, the approaches being considered would all work to make small holder and group certification much easier and cheaper. It has been a major concern from all chambers, especially economic chambers in the US, Latin America, Scandinavia, African and Pacific Asia that this issue must be resolved and on a risk-based approach. This is encouraging news.

Democracy in Action – Voting in Progress at the FSC General Assembly in Vancouver this month.