Frequently Asked Questions
Plantation Certification FAQ Responses:
As the world population and the global economy continue to grow, so does the global demand for forest products such as timber, paper and firewood. This places considerable pressure on the world's forests. Plantations can help meet this increasing demand. However irresponsible plantation management can have many negative impacts for people, wildlife, watersheds, and local communities and economies.
In 1996, FSC’s membership approved Principle 10 for Plantations, agreeing that FSC certified plantations can help to reduce pressure on, and promote the restoration and conservation of natural forests, while providing an array of social and economic benefits, and still contribute to meeting this growing demand for wood.
FSC believes that plantations that meet the high social, environmental and economic standards of the FSC Principles and Criteria should be recognised for their commitment to responsible forestry.
FSC defines plantations as “forest areas lacking most of the principal characteristics and key elements of native ecosystems, which result from the human activities of planting, sowing or intensive silvicultural treatments.” The characteristics and elements of native forest ecosystems are defined in FSC-accredited national and sub-national standards of forest stewardship.
In practice, FSC's plantation principle applies mainly to forests that have been established by artificial regeneration (seeds, seedlings or cuttings). However, the definition can include naturally regenerating forests that have been simplified or degraded by silvicultural treatments, resulting in the loss of the key elements of the native forest ecosystem.
FSC defines natural forests as “forest areas where many of the principal characteristics and key elements of native ecosystems such as complexity, structure and diversity are present, as defined by FSC approved national and regional standards of forest management.”
Since 1998, FSC has used a working definition of a forest for purposes of evaluating whether or not land is within the scope of application of the FSC Principles and Criteria. This working definition is “a tract of land dominated by trees” which can range from unaltered natural forest to artificially established and highly managed plantations. Plantations are included in this working definition.
Stakeholders have identified FSC’s definitions of plantations and forests as one of the fundamental issues that should be assessed during the Plantations Review.
FSC certified plantations must meet the same social, environmental and economic criteria that natural forests do, as outlined in Principles 1-9, but they must also comply with Principle 10.
FSC National Working Groups define the indicators (of the Principles and Criteria) that are applicable to plantations at the national or sub-national levels. The indicators for plantations may differ from those for natural forests.
Principle 10: Plantations shall be planned and managed in accordance with Principles and Criteria 1 - 9, as well as Principle 10 and its Criteria. While plantations can provide an array of social and economic benefits, and can contribute to satisfying the world's needs for forest products, they should complement the management of, reduce pressures on, and promote the restoration and conservation of natural forests.
The certification of plantations was first discussed at the earliest meetings of the Forest Stewardship Council. In 1993 a draft set of Principles & Criteria for Plantations was circulated at the FSC Founding Assembly. Later, the FSC Board of Directors agreed that instead of having a separate standard for plantations, FSC Principles 1 - 9 for natural forests should be applied to plantations, but with an additional principle (Principle 10) for plantations.
Stakeholder consultation and working group meetings on Principle 10 (P10) began in 1994 and continued through 1995. In December of 1995 a final version of P10 was sent out for approval by FSC’s membership. The weighted voting (balancing North and South social, environmental and economic votes) result was 89% in favor of the proposed Principle 10. P10 was formally adopted by FSC at the 8th meeting of the FSC Board of Directors in February 1996.
In January 1999, Criterion 10.9 was added as a result of work on the revision of FSC Principle 9.
As of October 2004, FSC accredited certification bodies had certified 46.8 million hectares of forests worldwide. This includes 20.1 million hectares of mixed semi-natural forest, plantation and natural forests; 5.9 million hectares of plantations; and 20.6 million hectares of natural forest, as registered by FSC certification bodies.
Up-to-date numbers can be found in the Document Center on FSC’s website: www.fsc.org.
Plantations Review FAQ Responses:
FSC certification of plantations was intended to provide a means of recognising responsible plantation management. However, after 8 years of certifying plantations against FSC’s 10 Principles and Criteria, there remains criticism that Principle 10 is too ambiguous and open to a wide range of interpretations.
To provide clarification and guidance on FSC’s policies and standards for plantation certification, a draft FSC Plantation Policy (Clarification of FSC’s Position on Plantation Certification) was developed in May 2002. However, at the 3rd General Assembly in November 2002, FSC members passed a motion stating:
"The current version of the FSC Plantation Policy Draft (30 May 2002) is not clear enough and needs improvement. After a broad consultation with the membership within 18 months the revised Plantation Policy should give concrete guidance on the interpretation of P10."
The motion was approved by 75.30% of voting members. Certification bodies and other stakeholders have also requested greater clarity regarding plantation certification policies and standards.
In response, FSC is conducting a review of the policies and standards for plantation certification in order to address the concerns and issues raised, and to ensure that FSC’s system for identifying environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s plantations remains effective and credible.
The objective of the Plantations Review is to engage social, environmental and economic stakeholders in an international review of FSC’s policies and standards for plantation certification, and to provide clear guidance and/or standards for their future implementation. By engaging a wide array of stakeholders, FSC is confident that the outcomes of the review will gain broad support of the FSC membership and the global community.
The Plantations Review process is expected to take two years and will be divided into two phases: an initial policy phase followed by a technical phase. Working Groups will be established for each of these phases.
The goal of the first phase is to identify and debate the fundamental issues of plantations, and to determine an appropriate FSC position and/or approach to resolve them. For this phase, a Policy Working Group will be coordinated by the FSC Board of Directors. Fundamental issues which may be addressed by the Policy Working Group could include: the role of forest plantations in the conservation and management of natural forests, preservation of biologically/socially valuable non-forested ecosystems, and FSC’s definition of plantations and forests.
The goal of the second phase is to develop technical solutions based on the conclusions made by the Policy Working Group in the first phase. For this phase, a Technical Working Group will be coordinated. Examples of possible objectives for the Technical Working Group are to: provide clear guidance on the implementation of FSC’s Principles and Criteria for plantation certification, revise FSC’s Principle 10 to make it more clear and less ambiguous, or develop a separate FSC generic standard for plantation certification.
The final results of this 'technical' phase of the review will be presented to the FSC Board of Directors for approval. If the technical changes involve a change to FSC’s Principles and Criteria, the change(s) would have to be approved by the FSC membership.
For both phases, national meetings and stakeholder input will be a significant part of the process.
The Policy Working Group, of the first phase of the review, will be balanced in accordance with the FSC membership structure. There will be two members from each of the six FSC sub-chambers (environmental, social, and economic; North and South). These 12 individuals will fully and actively participate and represent the concerns of their respective sub-chamber throughout the policy phase of the review.
The representatives for each sub-chamber will be selected and confirmed by the FSC Director(s) responsible for that sub-chamber, following consultation with the members of the sub-chamber. If you would like to be involved in the selection process or be considered for the Working Group, contact your Board of Director representative for more information on this process.
The complete Working Group membership will be reviewed and approved by the FSC Board of Directors. The group will be chaired by the FSC International Center Policy and Standards Unit. The working group may invite technical advisors to submit papers or provide additional advice in a non-voting capacity.
The constitution of the Technical Working Group has not been finalized and will depend on the terms of reference specified during the first phase of the review.
To help keep everyone well informed and actively involved in the review, the plantations review website www.fsc.org/plantations will be updated regularly throughout the review process. This will include announcements of upcoming stakeholder meetings, and draft documents which FSC staff are seeking stakeholders’ comments on.
You can send comments and questions regarding the review to plantations at fsc.org at any time. These emails will be received by an FSC staff member involved in the review who will record your comments and questions, and reply to your email.
We have also started an email forum for the Plantations Review which all stakeholders are welcome to subscribe to. This is an email system that allows everyone subscribed to it to send email messages and attachments to everyone else (there is a file size limit to help prevent email-boxes from being overloaded).
The purpose of this email forum is to allow stakeholders to share their experience, information, and ideas, and to discuss relevant issues during the Plantations Review. The FSC staff who are facilitating the review will monitor this forum, and record comments and questions which have been posted, and issues which have been raised. It will also be used by FSC staff to inform the subscribers of new postings/ updates on the Plantations website. If you would like to subscribe to the Plantations Review email forum, please send a request to the forum administrator at forum.administrator at fsc.org.
The FSC Board of Directors has specified that the purpose of the review is not to determine whether or not FSC certification of plantations will continue, but rather to consider what level of performance FSC-certified plantations should be evaluated against and whether or not FSC’s Principles and Criteria ensure that this level of performance is met.
Regardless of the results of these inquiries, plantations that comply with the current policies and standards for plantations will continue to be eligible for certification during the review process. If there are any Board approved changes to the requirements for plantation certification, certificate holders and applicants would have to comply with the new requirements by the end of a specified phase-in period. Any such changes would only be introduced after wide stakeholder consultation.
A change to FSC’s position on the eligibility of plantations for certification would require a vote of the full FSC membership.
Current certificates will not be affected unless the FSC Board of Directors approves changes to FSC policies or standards. If FSC certification requirements are changed, there will be a phase-in period. Certificate holders and applicants would have to comply with new requirements by the end of the phase-in period to maintain or obtain FSC certification.
Certificate holders will be informed if any changes are proposed, and are encouraged to participate in the review process and submit comments on any proposals that are made.
Current FSC-accredited national/sub-national standards for plantations will not be affected unless the FSC Board of Directors approves changes to FSC policies or standards. If changes to FSC policies or standards are approved, national/ sub-national standards would then have to comply with the new policies/ standards within a specified period of time.
Ongoing national and sub-national standards development processes are recommended to proceed as planned, but to monitor and comment on the development of proposals during the Plantations Review. National/ sub-national standards for plantations will continue to be evaluated against existing FSC requirements, unless/ until those requirements are changed following the review.
If the requirements for national/ sub-national standards are changed there will be a phase-in period to ensure that the work of national standards development groups in not disrupted.