FSC Looking Towards the 21st Century

New approaches on forestry, an integrated perspective on ecosystem services, more support towards smallholders and communities, the appeal to the consumer or the need to act as a political intermediary are some of the trends that might influence the steps of FSC in the coming years.


Timo Lehesvirta, Director of the Forest Division at UPM.

By Noel Castro Fernandez, FSC GA Youth Reporter.

As we progress further into the 21st century, forests are proving to be an important part of sustainable development. Apart from wood sourcing, forests provide us with essential services and resources such as air cleansing, water production, preventing soil erosion, and providing habitats for both human communities and animals.

Nearly twenty years into the 21st century, it has become clear that the protection of the environment should be included on the global agenda. But what is the role of sustainable forestry in this ever-changing scenario? How can FSC become useful for the needs of the future?

To try to look at some possible scenarios, the FSC General Assembly 2017 hosted a panel with members of different enterprises and organizations that are involved with forest conservation.

One of the most recurrent points in the meeting was the necessity to develop an integral approach to forest management. This means considering not only the profit of wood production, but also looking at the benefits of the ecosystem services that can be found in a forest.

According to Timo Lehesvirta, Director of the Forest Division at UPM, throughout the life cycle of around 5.5 square meters of conifer wood, the trees are able to bind around 4,000 kg of carbon, as well as cleansing around 8 million litres of water, providing more than 200 kg of food – such as mushrooms and berries, and hosting habitats for more than a thousand species.

The array of data seems to suggest that there is a large number of options when it comes to obtaining benefits from the forest. This seems to highlight the need for guaranteeing, according to Catherine Grant of Greenpeace, a “broader recognition of what forests are,” therefore addressing problems that go beyond wood certification and production “such as deforestation or indigenous rights.”

Pointing towards the end of the production chain, Elizabeth de Carvalho, Head of Brazilian Tree Industry (Iba), highlighted how wood markets are witnessing growth in the level of environmental awareness of the average consumer. These “higher demands” of the consumer, according to De Carvalho, might result in an increasing amount of “valuable for the consumer” certified forest products.

The meeting addressed other trends in the future work of FSC, including the exploitation of new technologies and scientific advances, the lowering of the carbon footprint of its products, and support for smallholders and the rights of indigenous communities.

A last demand that gained wide support among the participants was the function of FSC as a political tool in the future. FSC might find itself a role as a link between governments, communities, and uncertified operators in the resolution of the challenges that may emerge in the years to come.

This amalgam of perspectives highlighted how complex yet determinant the future tasks of FSC will be. As Kim Carstensen, General Director of FSC, put it at the closing of the event, there will be no way for the organization to face this endeavour alone. “It will not be easy, and obviously we will not agree on everything,” but, according to Carstensen, it will be essential to integrate the multiple agendas of its members under the global strategy of FSC in the future.