An Analysis of Social Aspects of Forest Stewardship Council Forest Certification in Three Ontario Case Studies
Forest certification is a market-based tool whereby forest management is evaluated against a set of standards that consider environmental, economic and social elements of sustainability. Certification is therefore a means of providing customers with the assurance that forest products are originating from sustainably managed forests. It grew out of the ideal of sustainable forest management (SFM) and pulls from its predecessor the concept of multiple dimensions of sustainability. The focus of this project was the international forest certification scheme Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). A comparative case study approach was used to examine the social implications of certification in three FSC cases across Ontario. These cases include: Westwind Forest Stewardship Inc., Nipissing Forest Resource Management Inc., and Clergue Forest Management Inc. The purpose of this study is to examine how, and to what extent, social issues are being addressed. Three case studies are used to examine and compare how different forests deal with the social principles in the certification process. FSC addresses four main social issues which are the focus of research: consultation and public participation processes, recognition of Indigenous rights and culture, employee rights and community rights and well-being. Semi-structured interviews, a questionnaire and a document review were used to examine attitudes and opinions of social issues in certification, as well as the details and potential impacts surrounding specific social issues. This study concludes that FSC certification had only a limited impact on the four social issues in the three case studies. FSC did not make any fundamental changes; although it did improve representation, discussion of social issues, and relationships with stakeholder groups. The Nipissing and Westwind case study participants reported or attributed more changes to FSC certification than did those in the Algoma case study. The results of this study indicate that factors such as the strength of the Ontario forestry regulatory system and the economic downturn of forestry in Canada limited the amount of impact certification had on social issues in the three case studies. The awareness and strength of social principles in FSC policy need to be strengthened in order for certification to make a true impact on forest management in Ontario.