Policy and Standards

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FSC Forest Management Standard

Australia's first FSC National Standard

HQPlantations Beerburrum Plantations – A hybrid species of Caribbean and Slash pine (Pinus caribbea and Pinus elliottii) developed for sub-tropical Queensland as part of HQPlantations ongoing tree improvement program
FSC certified logs

FSC Australia are proud to deliver Australia's first FSC National Forest Stewardship Standard

FSC operate the only Australian certification standard for responsible forestry that brings together industry, environment and community interests. Now Australia has an FSC standard developed by Australian stakeholders representing environmental, industry, and social interests to meet Australian needs.

The FSC Australian National Standard delivers a clear, stable, and reasonable framework for responsible forest management in Australia. It contains provides greater clarity for forest managers around how to meet FSC requirements, for example advice on how to identify, assess, and manage high conservation values, and how to carry out social impact assessments and stakeholder consultation.

A copy of the standard is available for download below.

What is forest management certification?

FSC forest management certification confirms that the forest is being managed in a way that preserves the natural ecosystem and benefits the lives of local people and workers, all while ensuring it sustains economically viability.

To secure this certification, FSC members have agreed upon a set of criteria that forest managers or owners have to meet.

Maintaining areas of social and ecological value
Forest management certification helps protect the people and plant and animal species that live in and around, and depend upon, the forest.

Forest areas are often home to communities of Indigenous Peoples who live or work on the land, and for whom the forest is a source of essential food or materials and a contributor to their traditional cultural identity.

To meet social criteria, certificate holders must respect Indigenous Peoples’ land rights and enhance forest workers’ rights.

We also require forest managers to protect areas of high conservation value (HCVs). These may contain significant concentration of plant or animal species; rare, threatened, or endangered ecosystems; or areas of rare or outstanding biological, ecological, or social value.

How does a forest become certified?
Forest management (FM) certification involves the verification, by a third-party auditor, that a forest meets FSC's Forest Management Standards.

If the standards are met, the auditor will issue an FSC certificate for the forest (or forest management unit). Now the company is allowed to label timber from the forest with the FSC label.

How was the Australian standard developed?

Globally credible, locally relevant
The FSC Principles and Criteria (P&C) set out the global requirements for achieving FSC forest management certification. However, any international standard for forest management needs to be adapted at the regional or national level to reflect the diverse legal, social and geographical conditions of forests in different parts of the world.

This is especially true for Australia, due to our unique native species, Indigenous rights context, and other high conservation values associated with Australian forests.

The Australian standard aims to capture the essence of all feedback from key stakeholders on a wide range of concerns. For example, protecting high conservation value areas, sacred sites, and Indigenous and local community rights, as well as making sure that the community’s need for products and sustainable employment is met.

The standard development group
The national forest stewardship standard was developed by a group of elected members representing an equal balance of environmental, social, and economic interests. They formed a standard development group (SDG).

Over five years the group developed 7 drafts and carried out extensive consultation with stakeholders representing environmental concerns, Indigenous peoples’ rights, workers rights, local communities, and industry.

The new standard achieved majority support by members of the standard development group, such as The Wilderness Society, the Hunter Community Environment Centre, New Forests, Sustainable Timbers Tasmania, and individuals representing social, economic, and environmental interests.

Following majority approval the standard is reviewed by FSC International, and finally approved for release.

How does the FSC national standard deliver sustainable management of Australia's forests?

FSC is a proven tool for sourcing forest materials that have minimum negative impacts on forests. Companies that use agricultural or forest commodities are increasingly committing to ‘deforestation-free’ policies and forest certification is a proven tool that can help.

FSC certification goes beyond deforestation and maintains the quality of forests, preventing forest degradation.

The FSC national standard sets out rigorous requirements and advice on how to meet these requirements. Areas include:

  • upholding Indigenous rights and protecting sacred sites
  • identification, assessment, and management of old growth forests, threatened species, and waterways
  • ensuring the health and safety of workers

The standard also includes guidance and advice on carrying out stakeholder consultation and the need for Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC).

FSC is unique in Australian in requiring that forest managers carry out social impact assessments.

Social impact assessments require assessments of the impact on local communities from current or planned forest management activities.

This includes the following (as appropriate):

  • Employment and economic activity generated from management activities
  • impacts on other industries resulting from activities;· impacts on property values
  • health impacts
  • impacts on cultural heritage
  • impacts on recreational, visual, or amenity values.

The FSC national standard provides greater clarity to forest managers on how they should carry out these assessments, and what to consider.

For forest managers and auditors

What happens once the standard is approved?

Standard implementation timeline10 February 2019 - effective date, start of phase in period
The Australian Forest Stewardship Standard will be effective from 10 February 2019, this is called the 'effective date'.

From 10 Feb 2019 there will be a 12 month phase in period in which FSC certified forest managers have 12 months to transition to the new standard.

Within this 12 month phase in period, FSC certified forest managers can choose to be audited against their current forest management standard or the new National Forest Management Standard.

We advise forest managers to consider carrying out an additional ‘gap audit’ at your next audit, to assess what changes, if any, will be required to meet the new standard.

10 February 2020 - 12 months after effective date, end phase in period
From the end of the 12 month phase in period, all certificate holders must be evaluated against the new standard.

10 August 2020 - 18 months after the effective date

18 months after the effective date all certificates issued on the basis of the old interim standards will be regarded invalid. By this time, all forest management certificates must have undergone an audit under the new standard.

FSC Australia advise certified forest managers to make sure that they arrange an audit against the new standard within this 18 month period.

Interpretations – what do I do if I need something clarified or interpreted in the Standard?

If you have a question about a section of the National Standard and require an interpretation, you may submit a formal interpretation request to the National Office.

The National Office, together with the Board’s Policy and Standard subcommittee (PSC) is responsible for developing interpretations that will serve as normative documents.

The interpretations will be published and housed on the National Standard page on the FSC Australia website.

Interpretations relating to FSC international standards will still be required to be submitted to the FSC International Policy and Standards Unit. You can keep up to date on progress on the FSC International website.

Support for forest managers and auditors

To support forest managers and auditors with implementation and auditing FSC Australia will run an informational webinar approximately one month following the release of the standard. The webinar will run for approximately one hour, and will allow an opportunity to ask any questions about changes to the standard.

The one month delay following release is designed to allow time for forest managers and auditors to familiarise yourselves with the content and assess the areas in which you want more information.

Further information regarding the webinar will be provided to forest managers and auditors directly shortly.

FSC Australia will create an online space for forest managers to meet and discuss the standard with other forest managers from across the country. Forest managers are free to use the forum to discuss and share strategies for implementing the standard in your site, or simply meet other forest managers and take your discussion offline.

Questions for consideration in the webinar can be submitted through the forum.

The Revised 10 Principles and Criteria

Principle 1: Compliance with Laws
The Organization shall comply with all applicable laws; regulations and nationally- ratified international treaties, conventions and agreements.

Principle 2: Workers Rights and Employment Conditions
The Organization shall maintain or enhance the social and economic wellbeing of workers.

Principle 3: Indigenous Peoples’ Rights
The Organization shall identify and uphold indigenous peoples’ legal and customary rights of ownership, use and management of land, territories and resources affected by management activities.

Principle 4: Community Relations
The Organization shall contribute to maintaining or enhancing the social and economic wellbeing of local communities.

Principle 5: Benefits from the Forest
The Organization shall efficiently manage the range of multiple products and services of the Management Unit to maintain or enhance long-term economic viability and the range of environmental and social benefits

Principle 6: Environmental Values and Impacts
The Organization shall maintain, conserve and/or restore ecosystem services and environmental values of the Management Unit, and shall avoid, repair or mitigate negative environmental impacts.

Principle 7: Management Planning
The Organization shall have a management plan consistent with its policies and objectives and proportionate to scale, intensity and risks of its management activities. The management plan shall be implemented and kept up to date based on monitoring information in order to promote adaptive management. The associated planning and procedural documentation shall be sufficient to guide staff, inform affected stakeholders and interested stakeholders and to justify management decisions.

Principle 8: Monitoring and Assessment
The Organization shall demonstrate that, progress towards achieving the management objectives, the impacts of management activities and the condition of the Management Unit, are monitored and evaluated proportionate to the scale, intensity and risk of management activities, in order to implement adaptive management.

Principle 9: High Conservation Values
The Organization shall maintain and/or enhance the High Conservation Values in the Management Unit through applying the precautionary approach.

Principle 10: Implementation of Management Activities
Management activities conducted by or for The Organization for the Management Unit shall be selected and implemented consistent with The Organization’s economic, environmental and social policies and objectives and in compliance with the Principles and Criteria collectively.

To view the old Principles and Criteria please click here

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