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Transitioning our FSC Chain of Custody Group

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a globally recognized eco-certification system for forests and forest products and has the most rigorous forest management standards in the world. An FSC logo on a wood-based product guarantees its end user that the wood was responsibly harvested, with attention paid to a wide range of triple-bottom-line factors such as communities and workers’ rights, a healthy environment for the long-term, and full recognition of Indigenous rights and title.

Satnam Manhas, our former Director of Forestry, shared how we helped provide access to FSC certification for small businesses and why we’re transitioning this long-standing program into new hands.

A cost-effective solution for small businesses

At Ecotrust Canada, we’ve always valued the importance of small businesses and the role they play in providing economic and social sustainability within communities. The FSC mandate to promote responsible forestry has also been an important part of Ecotrust Canada’s vision since its inception.

So forming our FSC Chain of Custody Group (CoC) Certification Program 11 years ago was a natural fit, to allow small- to medium-sized businesses access to FSC certification. We had seen that the high cost of individual certification had been preventing small businesses from pursuing FSC projects and products, and group certification lowered those costs by sharing them throughout the group. Hence, we were able to support the adoption of FSC forest management practices through these partners for a number of years.

Time to transition

In 2017, our program underwent a very successful chain of custody group audit, with all businesses passing their individual audits with flying colours. With this solid footing for the future, we made the difficult decision to close out our CoC Certification Program, and started the process of seeking the best transition process for our group members.

We researched the options available for the group members. They could either pursue individual certification at a much greater cost, or we could find a good home for them with another group manager. We met with a number of capable organizations, and made the decision to transfer the group to Paul Vanderford of Sustainable Northwest, a Portland-based organization that would take ownership of the group in April 2018.

A good home with Sustainable Northwest

Paul Vanderford has extensive familiarity with the Forest Stewardship Council standards and many years of experience helping companies walk through the FSC assessment and audit process. Paul’s U.S.-based group is the oldest FSC group certification program in North America. In his time managing the US-based group, he has grown the program from 28 to 76 businesses and helped grow group members’ certified wood sales from $1.8 million to $17 million dollars a year.

Paul is the board chair of the FSC U.S. board of directors, where he works to ensure businesses get support and that FSC standards stay as simple as possible while maintaining credibility. He is involved in a joint Canada-U.S. task force on FSC monitoring and impacts, the FSC U.S. Policy and Standards Committee, and its Marketing and Communications Committee. The group couldn’t have been transferred to a more capable manager.

We are sad to see this long-standing program leave Ecotrust Canada. But, with their extensive experience and capacity in this area, we’re excited to see Sustainable Northwest grow and support our group of members, and we look forward to supporting them as best we can.

[Published June 8, 2018]