The new national FSC forest management standard will help conserve Russia's valuable forests and their biodiversity more efficiently
WWF-Russia welcomes the new edition of one of the main regulatory documents in the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification system, which will set new milestones for environmental and social responsibility for forest sector companies in the coming years. The new standard will make it possible to conserve intact forests and the biodiversity of forest ecosystems more efficiently, and will contribute to the management of sustainable forestry in industrial forests. It will help make all these processes more open and transparent for both loggers and all stakeholders, including environmental organizations and eco-activists, local communities, and forest management authorities. The new more objective requirements of the standard will help conduct independent audits of certified companies even more efficiently than before.
"WWF-Russia has been actively participating in the development of the national FSC forest management standard. Many of our proposals to improve requirements of forest management sustainability have been taken into account. Despite the fact that FSC certification in Russia still needs further improvement, it is already an active mechanism for the conservation and sustainable management of the country's forest resources. With its help, the forest business learns to take care of forests and their biodiversity, " says Andrey Shchegolev, WWF-Russia's Forest Program Director, member of the FSC Russia Сoordination Council.
For consumers, the FSC logo on wood or a wood product is an indicator that the product comes fr om a forest wh ere environmentally and socially responsible forestry is practiced. WWF supports the FSC certification as it helps prevent forest degradation and depletion of forest resources.
Compliance with the new national standard is mandatory for all FSC-certified forest lessees, whose number in Russia is growing every year. In 2020, Russia came out on top in the world in terms of the area of FSC-certified forests (over 54 million hectares), overtaking Canada, a long-standing leader. The total annual volume of certified products produced in our country exceeds 50 million m3.
WWF-Russia, along with some other environmental organizations, timber companies and social organizations, is actively involved in improving the quality of the FSC certification in the country. WWF experts are members of the Technical Committee for the development of the national FSC standard and of the FSC Russia Coordination Council. They also conduct field trips to check quality of biodiversity conservation by certified companies and publish their results.
Due to WWF-Russia’s suggestion, the new national FSC forest management standard includes:
- 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;
- a much more detailed and specific description of the methodology for working with HCV, including their mapping, a procedure for stakeholders interaction and searching for information. The principle of gradualness, precautionary approach, choice of HCV protection measures etc., are also described in more detail;
- a new approach to IFL that established % indicators for fully conserved IFL parts, and also described possible forest management options for the IFL parts that are included in logging sites. In addition, the standard contains two regional methods for IFL zoning: for the Russian Far East and Siberia;
- a more detailed description of biodiversity conservation measures during logging, a standard list of biodiversity objects has also been developed and included, which can be used as a basis for similar lists for specific forest areas with ongoing logging;
- a new approach for determining sustainable timber harvest level, that is, to calculate the annual allowable cut (AAC) based on the previously developed by WWF sustainability calculator.
WWF-Russia notes that the new national FSC forest management standard has significantly improved in comparison with the previous version; however it contains a number of controversial innovations that evoked a wide response in the timber industry.
"Some concepts and approaches that have appeared in the new national FSC forest management standard may initially create additional difficulties for certified companies in Russia, since most of them are new international FSC certification requirements that apply to all countries. In Russia, they have not been tested yet, so it is too early to say how effective they will work here. After the introduction of the new principles into forest management practice it will be possible to determine which ones require further development and adaptation to Russian realities, and it will help for stakeholders in an open dialogue to identify further steps to improve national forest management standard," says Andrey Shchegolev, WWF-Russia's Forest Program Director.
Among the most controversial, according to some experts, innovations in the national FSC forest management standard are:
- FPIC (free prior informed consent) approach, which is applied when companies interact with local communities and Indigenous people. According to the new standard, it is applicable only to certain cases of such interaction. Despite this, there is a concern that in some situations, the application of this approach may lead to a violation of the balance of interests in certification, and as a result, somebody’s voice may be completely ignored.
- SIR (scale, intensity and risk) concept. According to the new standard, it is only used in specific cases, but the concept itself is insufficiently developed. Vagueness and uncertainty of the requirements can lead to difficulties in its implementation, and to subjectivity of the assessment of its implementation.
- New requirements for IFL conservation. According to the new standard, after 2022, with new certifications of companies, any IFL in their lease will have to be conserved completely, that is, the industrial development of any part of an IFL will be unacceptable. This innovation raises objections from logging companies, since many of them lease large IFL areas, and it will be difficult to refuse from their development completely.