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FSC forest certification standard made for Australia

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has developed a new forest certification standard specifically for Australia to support the sustainable management of forests across the country. Source: Philip Hopkins for Timberbiz

FSC Australia’s National Forest Stewardship Standard joins the existing ‘Responsible Wood’ certification standard in ensuring that Australian wood products are from sustainably managed forests. The new standard is effective from 10 February 2019 and within 18 months will supersede all interim FSC standards.

It has been developed over the past five years and has the backing of industry, environmental and community groups. These include New Forests and the Wilderness Society.

The FSC standard includes strong protection for indigenous rights and sacred sites; old growth forests, threatened species and waterways; workers’ health and safety; and maintaining or enhancing the High Conservation Values of forest by taking a precautionary approach.

Nine representatives of environmental, economic and social interests were elected to a “Standard Development Group”, which developed the Australian FSC standard in line with FSC’s international requirements.

The members came from the Institute of Foresters of Australia, Regional Forest Communities (Tim Anderson), the trade union movement, the Wilderness Society, the Hunter Community Environment Centre, the ecologist David Blair, Forestry Tasmania, New Forests and the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA).

FSC sets the standards for sustainable forestry, but independent auditors assess forest managers against these standards and award the relevant certification if the standards are met.

The Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck, whose portfolio covers forestry, said global demand for timber products was projected to quadruple by 2050.

“The new Australian FSC standard will help us tap into this growth market by utilising a globally recognised trust mark for sustainable forest management,” he said.

“Australia now has two national standards aligned to the two global certification schemes, PEFC and FSC, which have been specifically tailored to Australia’s unique conditions and high-quality regulatory framework.”

AFPA chief executive, Ross Hampton, said consumers were now more acutely aware than ever about where products come from and how they are produced, and “rightly so”.

“Our renewable forestry industries need to be at the forefront of responsible and respected certification processes to instil confidence in consumers that the products they buy are sustainably produced,” he said.

From February 10, FSC certified forest managers have 12 months to implement the new standard. Within this 12-month phase-in period, the FSC managers can choose to be audited against their current forest management standard or the new National Forest Management Standard.

After the 12-month period, all certificate holders must be evaluated against the new standard. By 10 August 2020 – 18 months after the effective start date – all certificates under the old interim standards will be invalid.

By this time, all forest management certificates must have undergone an audit under the new standard.