By Morten Brodde, FSC Denmark
Certificate holders and retailers are eager to tell their customers about the impacts that FSC certification has for people and forests. In the last couple of years, a group of industry leaders, NGO professionals, and research experts have worked together on a pilot project to find the best way to measure the impacts and better communicate the value of FSC certification.
The VIA project was launched during the 2014 FSC General Assembly in Seville, Spain. Now, three years later, the first outcome of the project is ready and, at the session on ‘How to measure and communicate the results of FSC’, members of the project group gave an insight into the results.
What is the problem?
“One out of five companies lacks sufficient evidence to convince their own decision-makers [or managers] of the business case for using standards. And three in ten say they lack the evidence to convince these decision-makers that standards are impactful” stated Jamie Lawrence, Sustainability Advisor at Kingfisher.
According to Lawrence, people in the business world are constantly challenged with how to communicate about FSC and often have to defend the value of the FSC purchase decision in their own organization. One challenge with the existing information on FSC’s impact is that it does not provide a link to company’s key performance indicators and that it is often only academic.
Fact–based business-ready information
“It would be great if I could go to my commercial director and say that in Indonesia FSC reduced the incidence of air pollution by 31 per cent and firewood dependence by 33 per cent,” said Lawrence.
This is exactly the kind of information that the VIA project has delivered.
“The pilot project is complete as of last month. VIA focused on compiling evidence on performance and impacts of FSC and translating that evidence into fact-based business-ready information to help companies to communicate about FSC,” explained Elizabeth Kennedy, ISEAL Association Senior Advisor for Impacts.
The deliverables of the project include:
- Proof of concept for the VIA endorsement process, including key learning from the pilot phase detailing limitations and opportunities of the VIA endorsement process
- A set of VIA-endorsed business-ready messages and supporting documentation to inform communication of FSC’s performance and impacts, based on existing or readily accessible information
- Recommendations for improving business-relevant evidence on FSC outcomes and impacts.
“A key result is this proof of concept and what this means is that we can convene a group of experts to formulate credible and useful materials to inform business and other stakeholder communications on the value of the benefits of FSC certification that is backed up by transparent and public available documentation,” said Kennedy.
And, according to Kennedy, a lot of communications assets have been generated: “We have endorsed a set of business-ready messages with supporting documentation, we have five business-ready messages and six summary statements that we endorse. Additionally, we have prepared 20 business-ready messages and over 30 summary statements that, with additional investment, could be endorsed in the future.”
At the end of the session, an attendee emphasized the need for FSC to make sure that the valuable information, messages, and methodologies from the VIA pilot project are pushed out to the marketing, communication, and sales people in the companies that work with FSC.
More information about the VIA project and its deliverables can be found at www.isealalliance.org/VIA.