Intensified forestry and shared values in the wider landscape

FSC, together with an advisory group of members, has committed a study 'Forestry Intensification for Shared Value' to identify if and when we can consider intensified forestry as sustainableComing from this work, we found that implementing shared values can make intensification sustainable if shared value is considered at the landscape level, not just at the management unit level.

Shared values are the positive result of (intensified) forestry, such as in plantations, which are commonly recognized amongst the different stakeholder groups (social, environmental and economic) across the wider landscape.

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How can intensification deliver shared values?

For centuries, forestry has been intensified but today, with the increasing demand for more forest products and the urgent need to protect our forests at the same time, FSC has raised the question - Can we provide renewable forest materials to a growing world population, and increase contributions to biodiversity at the same time? And in this process, how do we foster ecosystem services, community resilience, and protect the rights of women, Indigenous Peoples, and workers in the wider landscape? Can we identify how forestry practices provide not only enhanced productivity but also positive long-term contributions to achieve environmental and social benefits in the wider landscape? 

FSC, together with certificate holders, rights holders and other stakeholders is seeking ways to identify if and how FSC-certified intensified production is advancing responsible forest management while enhancing shared values in the wider landscape.

Examples of shared values in the wider landscape from sustainable forest management

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Community Economic Development: Provision of local livelihood support such as the collection of non-timber forest products and mushrooms or medicinal plants, contribute to the creation of economic value in a way that also creates value for community. However, shared values also emphasize the importance of equitable economic value creation within communities. Shared values in this context involve not only the sustainable utilization of forest resources but also the benefit sharing by all stakeholders. 

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Ecosystem Services Conservation: The promotion of recreational activities and ecosystem services provisions like hiking, biking or wildlife observation, demonstrate shared commitment to conserve natural areas, promote sustainable land-use practices, and promote nature-related recreation. Shared values at the same time explore how stakeholders collectively prioritize the conservation and enhancement of ecosystem services in the wider landscape and promote its benefits amongst the community.

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Cultural and Spiritual Connection: Traditional practices, ceremonial gatherings, spiritual rituals, and community resilience emphasize the deeper cultural and spiritual significance of forests to local communities. Shared values encompass not only the preservation of cultural heritage sites and traditional practices within the forest management units, but also include the empowerment of local and indigenous communities in the wider landscape in consultation processes. 

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We are exploring methods for identifying shared values in the wider landscape by evaluating for example, their social and environmental benefits, the level of engagement in consultation processes for livelihood support, supporting community initiatives, conservation programs, participation in restoration projects, conducting community consultations, indigenous people’s consultations, and participatory mapping exercises.

Shared values timeline

How do we co-create to identify the contributions of FSC-certified plantations in the wider landscape? 

Co-creating shared values in intensified forests involved a collaborative effort among various stakeholders, members, experts, certificate holders, each bringing perspectives and expertise to the discussions. Through extensive engagement sessions, workshops, and forums, we fostered an inclusive environment where ideas could be exchanged.

Main supporters of developing shared values are the Sustainable Intensification Advisory Group (SIAG), appointed by the FSC Board of Directors, the SIAG consists of six members, equally representing the interests of the social, environmental, and economic chambers of the FSC membership. SIAG is tasked with providing a balanced understanding of sustainable intensification and shared values, promoting broader engagement, knowledge-sharing and collaborative initiatives to support the development of FSC solutions.

"We are a dedicated team of 6 FSC members around the world working on a voluntary basis since 2018 to support the
FSC in it’s efforts to achieve sustainable forest management in a context where forest intensification is no longer
a hypothesis but rather a reality”

- SIAG members

SIAG members

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Moving forward: Next steps

To advance the Shared Values project, we are expanding our approach. Collaboration with stakeholders and certificate holders is crucial as we identify appropriate shared values and how these can be identified for the wider landscape. For this purpose FSC will use the  "Sphere of Influence" concept. The Sphere of Influence refers to decisions and actions by stakeholders that influence what happens in the wider landscape, not just in the forest management unit that is FSC certified. The influence can be over ecological processes (migration corridors, gene flows, watershed alteration), social processes (delivery of critical civil services, land tenure clarification) or economic processes (job creation, benefit sharing schemes, infrastructure development). It is expected that through the concept of Sphere of Influence, stakeholders interact with their colleagues, other professionals, Indigenous Peoples, businesses and agencies, including government ministries, departments and other agencies, to achieve shared values objectives. 

FSC's goal is to develop outcome-based values. Next steps involve establishing a roadmap, engaging stakeholders, streamlining surveys, initiating pilot projects, and crafting a robust communication plan. We plan launching new pilots, expanding into additional regions and intensified forestry practices, also beyond plantations. The aim is to finalize a methodology and tools for identifying and communicating shared values from intensified forestry by 2025, with applicability across all regions.

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Forestry intensification for shared values by Lars Laestadius
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Forestry Intensification for shared values

In 2022, FSC published a Discussion Paper that explains the concept of shared-value at ethical and operational levels, examining the relationship between intensified forestry and consumption through the lens of shifting population needs.

FSC and the discussion on Genetic Engineering

FSC forbids the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for commercial purposes in certified forestry, as well as in certified products. This is based on Principle 10.4 in the FSC Principles and Criteria, as well as in the Policy on GMOs. In addition, the FSC Policy for Association forbids certified organizations to use GMOs in uncertified products and forestry, other than for research purposes. 

In the context of an ongoing discussion in forestry on growing the global supply for wood and forest products by intensifying forest management, FSC wanted to explore sustainable intensification, and if and how this could contribute to the protection of forests, biodiversity and social wellbeing while ensuring long-term sustainability. Next to forest intensification and shared values, the issue of genetic engineering was raised. The focus was on understanding sustainable intensification practices and identifying shared values to find innovative social, environmental, and economic solutions within the FSC.

GMOs have been discussed in FSC General Assemblies since 2010. In February 2022 the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) announced the start of a process to discuss GE (Genetic Engineering) outside of FSC certified area. The FSC International Board appointed a Panel of Experts to provide advice on how a GE Learning Process could help FSC gain sufficient and trusted knowledge on developments in genetic engineering in forestry.  After a planned review of the GE Learning Process during their Board Meeting in March 2023, the FSC Board of Directors has decided to discontinue the learning process. The decision considered the different views in FSC’s membership around the learning process, the division this bring to FSC as well as the potential risk to FSC’s mission and reputation. The Board affirmed that (apart from literature reviews, desk studies and research allowed by the current Policy for Association) no investigations of genetically modified trees would be undertaken or called for by FSC without first ensuring broad membership engagement and agreement. A statement from the FSC Board of Directors can be found here.