Community Certification in the FSC System

An op-ed piece by Nepcon

Another area that deserves special focus from FSC is community certification. When communities have legal ownership over their lands, deforestation is lower, and biodiversity protection and carbon storage are higher. However, in only 10% of cases are community land rights formally recognised . While in this area FSC could be a powerful force, it has not been successful enough and can do more.

Forests of the World and NEPCon have joined forces with others including RA and Imaflora to support FSC’s thinking ‘outside the box’ and capitalising on under-valued or under-utilised initiatives . In addition to the work to produce a new community standard (M83), the proposal provides a new look into a step-wise approach that would, amongst other things:

  • utilise a Participatory Guarantee System that would acknowledge social diversity, while helping to further empower the community
  • lead to greater recognition of business and marketing programs such as made with heart and strengthen initiatives (e.g. SCLO) by creating a Community Forestry Operations markets coalition
  • connect legal compliance and existing national legality schemes
  • utilise NEPCon’s Sourcing Hub; and
  • review bottlenecks in FSC standards.

Two industry and community representatives communicated their strong support for these initiatives.

If you would like to be part of this discussion, please join Monday morning’s session on motion 83 and progress on community certification.

Footnote reference material can be found on NEPCon’s website:

[1]     Refer

Quotation from Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation: “For many poor and rural communities around the world, their land is their livelihood. In fact, more than half of the world’s land area – including most of the world’s tropical forests – is occupied by communities following customary or traditional systems. Yet, the 2.5 billion people in traditional rural communities have formal legal ownership of only 10 percent of the world’s land. When traditional communities have control over their lands and legal protection from outside threats, they become the best stewards of the land and the trees that their forests contain. Previous research has shown that securing indigenous rights works better than any other method of forest conservation – even creating vast protected areas. These communities provide a critical and cost-effective buttress against the most detrimental effects of climate change. At least a quarter of all forest carbon storage occurs on lands managed by indigenous peoples. When these communities’ rights are more secure, rates of deforestation are lower – and carbon storage and biodiversity are higher.”

[2]     For example: Modular Approach Program (MAP); see; and (C)NRAs; see

[3]     Alternatives to facilitate FSC certification for Community Forestry Operations (CFE). Written by Mateo Cariño Fraisse, NEPCon, and Forests of the World. With valuable participation from IMAFLORA, Rainforest Alliance, The Honduran Council for Voluntary Forest Certification (CH-CFV), the National Association of Forest Managing Indigenous Communities (AFIN). See

[4]     See

[5]     NEPCon’s Sourcing Hub was launched in August 2017 and provides risk assessments, including world maps of risk, and country pages incorporating user-friendly access to risk data and related tools freely available to those in need of a risk-based approach to supply chain management including timber, soy, beef and palm oil. The Hub was developed with financial support from DFID, DANIDA, and the EU LIFE Programme. Refer

[6]     GreenWood’s President, Scott Landis, writes in support of change:
“GreenWood supports any effort that enables communities, indigenous rights holders and small forest owners to exercise stronger control and management of their own forests. As an early supporter of rational forest management and based on our more than 25 years of experience in tropical America, GreenWood considers three essential keys to making forest management more accessible and effective for smallholders. One is the development of simpler, more rational and less costly management protocols that recognize and actively incorporate local community participation and traditional values. The other involves much more effective development of value-added forest products and the marketing of those products from smallholder forests. The obstacles to both are significant, but very different. The first requires overcoming entrenched bureaucracies and injecting greater flexibility into the more orthodox academic approaches that dominate the training of forestry professionals and governing authorities. The second requires much greater investment in appropriate technology, quality control, professional design and creative marketing.The third element–and the elephant in the room–is the need for real governance and transparency. This requires not just that we address bureaucracy and corruption, but that there is legality at every level of the forest sector.”

[Scott Landis is President of GreenWood, an organisation that provides training for Peruvians and Hondurans in community forest management.]

The President of La Cooperativa Regional de Servicios Agroforestales Colón, Atlántida, Honduras (COATLAHL), Carlos Peralta, also endorses the need for an alternative system that is better adapted to communities (in terms of costs and complexity of technical terms); the need for a new standard (that does not need translation from a technician/ auditor); and the importance of FSC for communities (if this does really mean added value to our products, not only wood, but non-timber products and any other forest services).