The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has launched a comprehensive new standard for responsible forest management in Canada. The FSC National Forest Stewardship Standard of Canada, effective January 1, 2020, knits together the current four regional standards: National Boreal, Maritimes, British Columbia Standards and interim Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Standards.
The new standard adds measures intended to promote respect for Indigenous rights, to address the management of woodland caribou habitat and to promote the establishment of conservation areas. It includes a wide range of indicators to gauge the health of a forest.
FSC is an international organization with members from environmental organizations, business and the forest industry. It sets regional and national standards for forest management. In March 2018, Greenpeace International, a founding member of FSC, announced it would not be renewing its membership over concerns that national standards were not being evenly implemented. Greenpeace Canada, however, chose to retain its membership with FSC Canada, stating that it believed FSC Canada’s standards were effective.
Shane Moffatt, head of Nature and Food Campaign with Greenpeace Canada, repeated that sentiment in a statement in support of the new standard: “This is no time for business as usual. Companies that claim they are committed to operating in harmony with our natural world and respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples can prove it by getting forests they manage FSC certified,” he said.
The new standard makes “the contrast between FSC Canada and its competitors even starker,” writes Courtenay Lewis of the influential Natural Resources Defense Council in the United States (an important market for Canadian wood products) in a June 3, 2019 blog post. Lewis commends FSC Canada for including measures to protect boreal caribou habitat in the new standard, which she says creates “an important new global precedent for species safeguards in voluntary standards.” Provinces have done nothing, she says, to implement 2012 federal recommendations to protect a minimum threshold of caribou habitat. “FSC’s new standard aims to reflect the boreal caribou habitat disturbance limits outlined in the 2012 recovery strategy,” she says.
The FSC Canada standard is significant on a global scale. FSC has certified over 50 million hectares in Canada, which is roughly 25% of the total FSC-certified global forest area, explains Monika Patel, FSC Canada’s director of programs and communications, to EcoLog News. Approximately 14% of Canada’s forested land is now FSC-certified.
FSC Canada relies on purchasers, whether individual consumers or large commercial enterprises, to insist that their wood products come from FSC-certified forests. According to Patel, 36% of Canadians can recall seeing the FSC mark, and 32% say they were influenced by the FSC label when purchasing products.