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Reducing Costs, Increasing Options

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for forests and organic certification for agriculture would appear to be natural partners in international efforts to promote sustainable land use.

FSC promotes environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world's forests, while the International Federation for Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) supports the worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound agricultural systems based on the principles of organic agriculture.

The two programs have much in common. Both depend ultimately on the marketing benefits of promoting certified products as being socially and environmentally preferable, with organic labeled products benefiting in addition from perceived health benefits to consumers. Market acceptance of both programs has been impressive, and is increasing rapidly. The market value of certified organic food and FSC labeled forest products is now measured in terms of billions of US dollars worldwide. At the same time, the positive social and environmental impacts of the programs are also becoming increasingly clear in terms of biodiversity, water and soil conservation, working conditions and livelihoods. 

Organic and FSC programs generally run side by side, reflecting the often separate worlds of agriculture and forest management. In the case of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) however they overlap.

For NTFP producers and processors there are potential advantages in the existence of two widely recognized and potentially valuable labels: the FSC label and the organic label. On the other hand, the existence of two labels may also represent a risk, if producers are forced to choose between one and the other, or pay increased costs for double-labeling; and manufacturers and consumers may be confused by two apparently competing systems. 

Given the common goals and shared values of organic and FSC-based certification there ought to be potential for cooperation between the programs that could reduce costs and increase benefits to producers. While ultimately it will be producers, manufacturers and consumers who decide which (if any) certification program they prefer, it should be in the shared interest of both the organic movement and FSC to cooperate where possible to increase social and environmental gains, as well as benefits to program participants. 

This report provides background about both programs; information from recent research into potential collaboration between the two; and suggestions for future efforts to increase the uptake and benefits of combined FSC and organic certification of non-timber forest products.

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