FSC's Chain of Custody Certification: The Missing Link to a decent work and decent living through Forest Certification?

Submission date
Zettergren, F.
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Forest certification systems emerged after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, as an instrument to hinder deforestation and forest degradation, especially in tropical forests. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), launched in 1993 by environmental NGOs, is an independent, not-for-profit organisation which promotes responsible management of the world's forests by means of certification and labelling of forest products. Eco-labelling is a way to encourage consumers to differentiate between more and less socially and environmentally sustainable products, services, facilities or practises. In the past, such environmental labelling schemes were hampered by companies which created their own eco-labels, and in a surreptitious manner, passed their products off as sounder than their competitors. To avoid such problems with transparency, companies who set out to attain an FSC certification consent to have their company's performances assessed and regularly audited in an independent, FSC-accredited, third-party verification. If the certification is successful, FSC's label shows that the company meets FSC's standards. In the beginning, FSC's exertions were in principal environmentally focused. Today, FSC has broadened its standards to include a range of social aspects, addressing, for example, tenure rights for indigenous people and labour conditions for workers. However, these social aspects are only covered in FSC's Forest Management certification (of the forest), whilst the second certification, the Chain of Custody, refers to the generic process of tracking the wood through the whole supply chain (e.g. plywood factories, sawmills) after it leaves the forest, until it reaches the consumers. Hence, the Chain of Custody certification lacks social criteria stipulating the minimum acceptable labour standards inside, for instance, FSC certified wood producing factories. This thesis discusses the impacts that FSC's certifications have had on different stakeholders' working conditions, social development and if FSC's certifications have lead to "a Decent Work'. An ethnographic field study was conducted at an FSC certified company in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Different groups of workers, covered by the two certifications, and indigenous communises were interviewed. Using qualitative semi structured interviews allowed different stakeholders' perspectives of the impact FSC's certifications to be examined. The results show a difference in impact depending on the workers work contract (permanent, contractor or a sub-contract worker) for both certifications. Sub-contractors and contract workers lacked social protection and the right to social dialogue, something that the permanent workforce had. Occupational Safety and Health standards were found to be worryingly low for most workers. Whilst some respondents identified some improvements in labour conditions after the company received the certification (minimum salaries, work hour regulations), the cause was identified as down to government regulations. The indigenous communities, however, reported improvements in their economical situation, social welfare and in conflict resolution and identified it as due to the certification. It is argued in this thesis that unless social standards are implemented throughout the whole certification chain, nothing is linking decent working practices, from the forest, through the factories, until the wood reaches the consumers. Therefore, timber can be sold by an FSC certified company, where some workers lack basic safety equipment, social protection and decent working conditions.

Subject Keywords
Forests, Certification
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Forest Zone
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Review year
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