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Its critical importance and making it more effective

Over the years, stakeholder consultation has been increasingly included as a requirement in forest certification assessments. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has long standing requirements for stakeholder consultation, and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) recently added guidance for auditors regarding the use of meetings with third parties to determine certification compliance. Outside of North America, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) also has requirements for stakeholder consultation for assessments conducted under an endorsed scheme.

Each program differs in its definition of stakeholders and the consultation requirements, but in general forest certification programs include three types of stakeholder consultation. The first type of stakeholder consultation is the type that has been given the most attention to date – the consultation  associated with the development of standards. The ISO/IEC Guide 59 Code of good practice for standardization and World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements provide guidance for standards development. The various forest certification programs draw upon these international guidelines in the design of their standard setting processes. The FSC is also a member of the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labeling (ISEAL) Alliance, which has a Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards. The ISEAL guide is specific to social and environmental standards such as forest certification and includes guidance for standard setting and procedures for engaging stakeholders in standards development. A second type of stakeholder consultation occurs with management planning and decision making on the part of landowners and land managers seeking certification. Each forest certification standard includes guidance on how local interests should be informed of forest management planning processes, provided opportunity to comment, and given access to documents. The third type of stakeholder consultation is the focus of this report. This report focuses on the stakeholder consultation process that occurs during the certification assessment itself.

Although there are similarities between the three types of stakeholder consultation, the consultation that occurs during a certification assessment is unique in two key ways. First, the consultation during an assessment is the responsibility of an accredited auditor, not the land manager or the standard setting organization.  second, there is no standardized international guidance for stakeholder consultation during forest certification assessments. There is a need for a credible, efficient, and effective process for tackling this type of stakeholder consultation. For a number of reasons the stakeholder consultation part of the certification assessment is one of the most challenging aspects of the certification process but also, arguably, the primary reason forest certification came into existence.

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