FSC on situation in Belarus

FSC has issued a series of updates to its normative framework to implement measures related to FSC certificates and to disable the sourcing of controlled material from these countries. These updates are now all available in the FSC Document Centre

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FSC requirements updated to enforce decision to reject FSC material from Russia and Belarus

Updates to FSC’s Controlled Wood Framework

Controlled wood (CW) requirements explicitly require an assessment of whether a country’s forest sector is associated with armed violent conflict as listed in Indicator 2.1 of CW category 2 of FSC-PRO-002a:

2.1. The forest sector is not associated with violent armed conflict, including that which threatens national or regional security and/or is linked to military control.“

FSC concluded that a strong association between the forest sector and government exists in Russia and Belarus. Combined with their government’s military action, ‘specified risk’ had to be concluded. FSC further concluded that this risk cannot be mitigated by any other control measure except to altogether avoid source material from these areas. To implement this credibly in the FSC system, shorter timelines were required in addition to providing a mandate for FSC International to make changes to such risk assessments and control measures directly. As a result, the following changes have now been made to the CW framework:

1. FSC-ADV-60-002-01 Stipulation of Controlled Wood Risk Designations by FSC International in case of Emergency Situations: allowing FSC International to amend FSC risk assessments, both National Risk Assessments (NRAs) and Centralized National Risk Assessments (CNRAs), and to introduce mandatory control measures in CNRAs.

2. PSU-PRO-10-002 V2-0 The Development and Approval of FSC Centralized National Risk Assessments: a revised procedure for the development of CNRAs to reflect the possibility for the CNRA to provide mandatory control measures.

Using changes to the above normative instruments, the following have been revised:

  • FSC-NRA-RU V3-0 FSC National Risk Assessment for Russian Federation: a revised NRA for Russia,
  • FSC-CNRA-BY V2-0 FSC Centralized National Risk Assessment for Belarus: a revised CNRA for Belarus. We have additionally revised the risk designation for indicator 2.2 due to the risk of ILO violations, as there are evidenced instances of such violations which, in combination with the inability to safely assess such instances, has resulted in ASI excluding Belarus from its assurance services.

4. FSC-ADV-40-005-25 Adapting new Due Diligence Systems to Urgently Revised FSC Risk Assessmentsto make sure that FSC risk assessments revised as per the above are used in a reasonably short timeframe to address the urgency of the respective risks (30 days instead of 6 months). In addition, we clarified that the provisions for mandatory control measures also include CNRAs.

5. To ensure consistency between certification and accreditation requirements, we then issued an interpretation to FSC-STD-20-011, to clarify that when the NRA is mentioned in relation to control measures, it also includes CNRAs.

The above changes mean that within 30 days (by 8 April 2022) organizations shall cease to source controlled material from Russia and Belarus.

We believe that this timeframe is short enough to address the urgency of the situation and reduce the risk of forests being over-exploited to secure enough controlled material at the supplier’s premises, while giving enough time for companies to adapt their due diligence systems.

Addressing risks to the FSC system

Finally, we have introduced one generic advice note to address system-wide risks:

6. FSC-ADV-20-001-12 Consequences of Uncontrollable or Non-auditable Risks impacting the Forest Sector at large (NEW): requires certification bodies (CBs) to suspend or withdraw certificates in the event of emerging extraordinary risks beyond the control of the individual organization – identified either through CW risk assessments or otherwise. The advice note further regulates which types of certificates are subject to the highest risks and therefore shall be suspended or withdrawn.

In the case of Russia and Belarus, with the introduction of this Advice Note, within 30 days (by 8 April 2022) all certificates, except for forest management (with no trading of certified products), will have to be suspended for the time being.

However, in Belarus case, both ASI as well as FSC have identified uncontrollable risks related to upholding and assessing certain FSC social requirements which are based on ILO core conventions. ASI has therefore decided to terminate its FSC oversight activities in Belarus. As a consequence, FSC certificates will not only have to be suspended as governed by the overall decision of FSC for Russia and Belarus, but will have to be withdrawn.

Additional measuremeasures issued and queries around them, FSC has published two additional Advice Notes and the corresponding derogation as follows:

7. ADVICE-20-011-14 Verification audits for material sold but not dispatched prior to suspension (NEW)In general, products which have not yet left an organization's chain of custody system at the time the certificate is invalidated have lost their certified status. This Advice Note provides for the option of certificate holders prior to their suspension to undergo an extraordinary audit by which the certified and controlled product stock for delivery and related sales invoices can be inventoried. This will allow chain of custody certified buyers outside Russia, upon issuance of relevant verification statements by the certification body, to use relevant material as certified or controlled input in case that the dispatch of relevant invoiced stock is not possible before the suspension date.

8. FSC-DER-2022-002 Use of material purchased but not dispatched from Russia before suspension of supplier (NEW):  This derogation complements the above Advice Note. It enables certificate holders outside of Russia that have purchased material with FSC claims from certificate holders in Russia before the supplier’s suspension to use relevant material as eligible according to the invoice claim despite its dispatch only after the supplier’s suspension. The prerequisite for doing so is that the supplier’s certification body must have provided a statement confirming that the material has been duly produced before the suspension.

9. ADVICE-20-005-01 Waiving of AAF for certificates in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine (NEW): As the suspension is not grounded in the actual performance of the individual certificate holders but due to matters beyond their control, FSC decided to waive the Annual Administration Fee (AAF) for suspended certificates in Russia from Q2/2022 onward. For Belarus, ASI’s decision to reduce the geographic scope of certification bodies in combination with FSC-ADV-20-001-12 make it necessary to terminate all certificates in the country by 8 April 2022. In order to limit the financial risk for certification bodies operating in Belarus, FSC decided to waive the AAF for Q2/2022.

FSC has further decided to also waive the AAF for all certificates in Ukraine as of Q2/2022, regardless of their certification status.

We encourage stakeholders to review the published FAQs about the recent changes which can be found below. For further questions and inquiries into these changes, please contact the Performance and Standards Unit at psu.cis@fsc.org.