Three Questions to Clarify Controlled Wood Risk Assessments 

by María Luisa Muñoz-Cobo (FSC Latin America)

As a starting point for the complex subject of controlled wood risk assessments, we should ask ourselves three questions.

First of all, what is controlled wood?
Maybe this is a basic question for most of the people inside the FSC system, but many others don’t know that we are talking about uncertified material that can be used in FSC Mix products. Of course, not everything can be used, as Joanna Nowakowska, FSC Program Manager Controlled Wood, explained, “there are unacceptable sources that shall be avoided, such as illegal wood, wood harvested with violation of traditional and human rights, or wood coming from GM [genetically modified] plantations or from forests converted to plantations, among others.”

Controlled wood, according to the FSC system, comes from certified forests, and makes possible sustainable forest management.

Now, a second, and more difficult question: what is a risk assessment?

Well, as Nowakowska stated, “these are the studies that analyse risk against a set of indicators, provided in FSC procedures.”

The last question is the most complicated to answer, but key to understanding this matter: why do we need to make FSC assessments?

According to what Tatjana Stutzkowsky, FSC Policy Manager, Controlled Wood Coordination, “risk assessments are inside the Requirements for Sourcing FSC Controlled Wood (FSC-STD-40-005), and they prevent the risk of unacceptable activities taking place in different areas, which would need intensified control of material from this land, in order to be able to be used as controlled wood.”

It is important to know, as Nowakowska commented at the beginning of this meeting, that almost 60 FSC risk assessments are being developed right now around the world.

An FSC risk assessment is different from a risk assessment developed by the certificate holder. While ‘company risk assessments’ were allowed in the past, they posed many controversies and conflicts of interest. That is why FSC has been investing in its own assessments, and is able to deliver them to many countries – about 60, in different regions of the world.

Risk evaluations can be labelled as ‘low risk’ or ‘specified risk’. If determined as ‘low risk’, there is no need for special control or activities, just the regular FSC requirements for using material as controlled wood. In the case of ‘specified risk’, FSC certificate holders must implement control measures in their supply chains, to avoid risk, to enable them to use this material as controlled wood.

As Nowakowska explained, FSC “risk assessments are necessary for the new controlled wood standard, which will be implemented before the first of January 2018”. There are many actors involved in the development of the standard, including national offices, the FSC Secretariat, external consultants, and national and international stakeholders.