The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has announced the withdrawal of the remaining forest management certificates in Russia by the respective certification bodies.
This is due to the decision by Assurance Services International (ASI) to terminate its FSC assurance activities in Russia. ASI’s decision will enter into force on 1 May 2023 and will be re-evaluated once the conditions allow for assurance again.
Based on the risk assessment conducted by ASI, the main reason is the increasing integrity risk in the country as the security for the people involved in oversight activities in Russia can no longer be guaranteed. In addition, there are limitations to operating in the country as a result of the restricted access and sanctions.
With the termination of ASI’s oversight activities in Russia, certification bodies will no longer be accredited for auditing against the FSC standards in the country.
This withdrawal of all FSC certificates in Russia follows last year’s decision by the FSC International Board to apply measures leading to the suspension of certificates allowing for the trade in FSC certified materials and products in Russia and Belarus, which was made in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.
The suspended certificates will now also be withdrawn after 12 months of suspension, at the latest on 8 Apr 2023.
FSC’s statement about the withdrawal reads: “FSC International deeply regrets being unable to maintain forest management certification in Russia and remains focused on upholding the protection of forests with High Conservation Values (HCV) and Intact Forest Landscapes.
“The pre-war state of these valuable forests will provide a critical baseline to evaluate their responsible management during the absence of forest management certification. FSC will not accept the conversion of forests, especially those of High Conservation Values, which must remain intact.”
Regarding other voluntary certification schemes that have emerged in Russia, FSC will not endorse such initiatives, but they equally will not stand in the way of any organisation that is “mission driven and stakeholder focused and that seeks to use equally rigorous requirements to uphold sustainable forest management”.