Support Motion 16 to Harvest Impact Data and Tell Positive FSC Stories

Let's tweak a system and make it stronger for all parties.

by Laura Terrall, Director of RA-Cert

Policy Motion 16, proposed by the UK Confederation of Forest Industries, is a forward-thinking motion that is somewhat flying under the radar in the chamber meeting discussions this week. The Rainforest Alliance wishes to draw attention to this important initiative and share our point of view on its value.

Motion 16 addresses a weakness that has long existed within the FSC system: finding a way to communicate positive impact of certification to forest managers, buyers, and consumers. The link between the forest and consumer must be strengthened in order to increase awareness—and possibly certification—around the world. We need data and stories from the field to better illustrate the benefits of certification on the ground.

Certification bodies and auditors are already collecting good data, but there is a lack of consistency between CBs on how to efficiently report the information. And after an audit, this data can often only be found in auditors’ notebooks, forest manager records, or by burrowing through long and dense audit reports.

Transforming this valuable but incomplete and difficult-to-access data into a user-friendly, centralized database will provide an important suite of services to FSC members. The ability to pull reports, or use data to suggest improvements to assurance systems, or identify risks would help propel FSC further and faster into the marketplace. Perhaps most importantly, Motion 16 would make success stories and impact data available to all FSC stakeholders.

Impact data would provide concrete reasons for forest managers to seek certification. It would help procurement officers and buyers understand why FSC products is better for them. It would tell a compelling story to consumers and establish an appreciation for the work that goes into responsible sourcing.

In fact, the need for what Motion 16 is proposing is so great that industry leaders have already embarked on their own project through ISEAL. The Value an Impact Analysis (VIA) initiative, launched at the 2014 General Assembly in Sevilla, aims to debate, develop and endorse the best methods for synthesizing existing evidence and communicate impact. The Rainforest Alliance, along with several other NGOs, academics, and industry players, have worked for the past three years on this project, through participation of our chief scientist/M&E director and senior FSC technical staff.

FSC’s strategic workplan has identified this need for metrics in Strategy Objective 3.3 and Strategy 2, and Motion 16 has the potential to deliver a common-sense solution in a relatively short period of time, in an affordable way—which we predict will pay members back in short order.

First: leverage preexisting audit process to collect a standardized set of data points for the field. Second: use technology to make it simple for auditors to contribute their data to a centralized database. Third: provide a user-friendly interface for CBs to make reporting simple and useful for client certificate holders. This will modernize the audit process through harnessing data and innovative technology for efficient reporting. Passing and implementing Motion 16 would define a pathway achieve FSC’s strategic vision, enable market development, and strengthen the FSC value proposition all along the value chain.

The Rainforest Alliance looks forward to voting “yes” on Motion 16.