FSC in tropical forests – a niche worth fighting for 

Mondays’ Tropical Forest side meeting focused on FSC in the tropical forests and how FSC can advance in getting more areas certified. 

Ida Rehnström, FSC Denmark

The tropical forests are under tremendous pressure from activities such as illegal logging, mining, farming, and conversion to plantation. Holding 44 per cent of the world’s forest cover, the tropical forests have always been a hot topic for FSC and its stakeholders. Adding to this, the tropical forests are used by 50 million Indigenous Peoples and contain about half of the globe’s terrestrial species, making the tropical forests a focal point for social and environmental organizations within the FSC system.

Stories first – then the timber

To kick off the side meeting on tropical forests, Markus Brütsch, Chief Executive and Chief Financial Officer of Precious Woods, talked about his organization’s long-term commitment with FSC, being one of the first certified companies back in 1997. Markus shared results from work in Brazil and Gabon, pointing to higher rates of deforestation outside the certified areas than within, the company’s work with 50 forest communities, and emphasizing that Precious Woods “are not a high profitable company but attract shareholders with stories,” meaning that shareholders want to see impact on nature and social issues, or as he put it “First the story, then the timber”.

When asked to present Precious Woods’ biggest learning or challenges from working in the tropics for so many years, Markus highlighted the importance of adapting oneself as a company to the local culture saying, “you cannot influence the culture, you have to adapt to it”. As a main challenge he said: “We are competing with illegal timber and low demand, and we need a higher market demand for FSC,” acknowledging though that even with big increases in the market “we always will be a niche, but it’s worth fighting for.”


Next up was Chris Eves, Forestry Officer from the Zoological Society of London, to talk about SPOTT (www.spott.org), a tool for transparency and accountability in production and trade of global commodities. Having the financial sector as a prime target group, the approach is used to minimize risk in an increasingly aware economic sector. SPOTT is, according to Chris, acknowledging achievements of FSC certification in the tropics and awarding points for elements such as the Policy for Association.

Strong learning from FSC in Mexico

Representing a country where 80 per cent of the forest is community forest, Luis Alfonso Arguelles (FSC Mexico) and Maria Ines Pazaran Guzman (Caoba) presented the Mexican best practice on how to engage and move forward on the ground. Maria, from the Mexican cooperative of Caoba, showed how FSC has advanced them to 50 employees and 50 part-time workers. Part of that success is due to a good market link for cooperation – having started selling only in 2015, Caoba now has customers as far away as Spain. And creating these links in the market represents a strong point to Luis Alfonso from FSC Mexico. For him, the need to work on the ground, dealing with every single certificate holder individually, is crucial. Starting from the product and finding a path for that specific product in the market is part of the success they experience in Mexico – an approach that could potentially serve as inspiration for others in the network.