SA FSC Standard development approach attracts international interest

October 3, 2016


By Jeanette Clarke

The National FSC standard development process is on track and the innovative approach adopted by SDG-SA has attracted international attention and commendation. SDG-SA elected at the outset to develop a Standard tailored to the South African timber plantation industry that could be applied to all scales of forestry, very much in line with the FSC’s global strategic plan.

Risk-based approach  
A risk-based approach is being used to develop a national FSC standard customised to the local industry and sensitive to different grower contexts. The risk-based methodology developed by SDG-SA has received endorsement from the Policy and Standards Unit (PSU) of the FSC. PSU has presented the South African risk-based standard development approach at forestry forums internationally.

The research behind this approach was done by the FSA Smallholder Committee with the aid of consultant, Steven Germishuizen and funded by FSA and the FSC. The application of the research into the standard development has continued with generous support from WWF South Africa.

This work was presented at the recent FSC Southern & Eastern African Workshop on New Approaches and Innovations for the Design of a Smallholder Certification System held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  Workshop participants endorsed the approach as a powerful tool in developing flexible standards and auditing approaches to overcome barriers to smallholder certification.

SA FSC Standard on track  
The past few months have seen intensive work on the Draft 1.0 National FSC standard to incorporate the abundant comments from a broad range of stakeholders. These contributions have been exceptionally useful in fine-tuning the indicators and guidance notes. Draft 2.0 is now complete and will form the basis for field testing. Two field tests will take place; the first by SABS in the Piet Retief area from 3-5th October, and the second by SGS in the Pietermaritzburg area from 10-12 October. The purpose of field-testing is to see if the indicators are auditable, if the emphasis is appropriate and if guidance to managers and auditors is sufficient. Field test insights and recommendations will be used to further revise the draft National standard. The resulting Draft 3.0 will be released for a second round of public consultation during November and December 2016.

After incorporation of feedback, the final draft (Draft 4.0) will be submitted to FSC PSU for approval early next year.

Global picture
The FSC National Standards approvals process has been streamlined to meet the challenge of approving new standards worldwide. The first three countries to have their standards approved by the Policy and Standards Committee are Portugal, France and China, all subject to minor improvements. The UK and Bulgarian standards have gone through PSU assessment and are awaiting approval by the Policy and Standards Committee. Next in line, Uganda and Germany have submitted their national standards to PSU for assessment. The turnaround time for assessment, modification and approval of National Standards is two to three months.

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