STTC Project in the picture: communicating certification with facts and confidence
STTC supporters are among those who can now use research-backed, evidence-based messaging underlining the sustainability and other positive impacts of FSC certification in their efforts to increase sales of certified tropical timber.
The messaging has come out of international research undertaken under the Value and Impact Analysis Initiative (VIA), which is led by the ISEAL Alliance (IA), the UK-based NGO with a mission to ‘strengthen sustainability standards for the benefit of people and the environment’.
VIA was partly funded by the STTC’s main backer and founder, the Dutch-based Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), which believes the research will “transform the position of the tropical timber industry” by demonstrating that trade in sustainably sourced materials is an “important driver of forest conservation”.
The initiative began as a joint venture between three major consumer market forest products players, IKEA, Tetra Pak and international home improvement group Kingfisher, and was also backed by suppliers SCA and Precious Woods.
“Today, more and more businesses want to have a positive impact on the environment and society and use voluntary certification to differentiate products and ensure supply chain sustainability,” states the ISEAL Alliance. “The challenge is how to better internalize and communicate the added value of sourcing certified materials. Businesses need well supported evidence to communicate with confidence regarding the social and environmental benefits of certification.”
VIA’s research into FSC certification impacts was undertaken by an independent international Technical Advisory Group (TAG), including WWF International, NEPCon, Greenpeace International, the World Resources Institute and experts from Princeton and Ohio State Universities.
They established methods for organizing and analysing evidence on FSC certification effects and agreed on language for developing communications.
The initial outcome is a range of independently researched and sanctioned messages and statements, which the ISEAL Alliance says businesses can confidently use in the marketplace, covering topics from biodiversity, to worker health and safety.
- FSC aims to keep forests healthy and resilient through responsible management practices including include setting aside areas from commercial logging. Of the nearly 20 million hectares of tropical and drier sub-tropical forest under FSC certified management in 2014, over 3 million were set aside.
- In several Congo Basin countries, living and working conditions were all better for workers in FSC-certified forests than forests without certification.
Jamie Lawrence, Kingfisher’s Senior Sustainability Advisor – Forests said the VIA could represent a turning point for certification validation and communication.
“We’ve seen ourselves the positive impact of FSC certification on forests,” he said. “However measuring and communicating this impact can be challenging. An immediate result of VIA has been a motion at the FSC General Assembly calling for the ‘harnessing of audit data to improve assurance integrity, monitoring and evaluation and the value proposition for FSC’. This is the start of a game-changing movement in voluntary standards as they move towards a data driven standards setting, based on outcomes and impact as opposed to today’s rules-based systems.”
He added Kingfisher itself would use the verified messaging in social media, sustainability reporting and investor disclosures. They will also feed into branding as part of the company’s ONE Kingfisher corporate plan.
IDH said VIA’s ‘transformational messaging’ around certified sustainability was also at the core of STTC’s latest Conference in Aarhus, Denmark – Sustainable tropical timber – Selling a positive story. The theme was that ‘preventing forest degradation necessitates market uptake of verified sustainably sourced tropical timber’, which can only happen when awareness about and confidence in the latter’s wider value and impacts grows.