FSC to terminate all certificates in Belarus after ASI excludes country from scope of all certification bodies; ASI cites issues with credibly assessing social/labor criteria as there may be unacceptable risks to individuals involved in FSC certification

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BONN, Germany , March 9, 2022 (press release) –

FSC announced yesterday that it would no longer accept FSC material from Belarus and Russia due to the strong affiliation of the countries’ forest sector with the state and the resulting association with the invasion of Ukraine.


FSC is now enforcing additional measures on Belarus: all certificates in Belarus will have to be terminated as a result of the decision by Assurance Services International (ASI) to exclude the country from the scope of all certification bodies.

Following its investigation, ASI announced its inability to credibly assess conformance with certain FSC social requirements based on International Labour Organization (ILO) core conventions due to unacceptable risks to the safety or livelihood of individuals involved in FSC certification that such assessments could pose.

The principles from the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work of main concern in Belarus are freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining and the elimination of discrimination in respect to employment and occupation.   

FSC has further decided to no longer uphold a local presence in Belarus and operate a standard development group for the development of a national forest standard. FSC is currently unable to bring the various interests to the table to develop and promote FSC. FSC works in a stakeholder-driven fashion bringing together the environmental, social and economic interests. This is a fundamental principle for FSC to function and ensure that all voices are heard.

With the last independent environmental non-governmental organization, Birdlife Belarus (APB) about to be liquidated, and a key member of the FSC standard development group, Victor Fenchuk arrested and imprisoned for six months while still awaiting trial, stakeholder diversity has been undermined.

The operations in Belarus will be reinstated once FSC has sufficient evidence that the fundamental values for FSC are in place and functioning again. This means that there needs to be a political environment where certification bodies can do their work of rigorous audits and ASI can oversee that work. The auditors accountable for thorough controls can then verify the adherence to FSC's requirements. This measure shows that FSC stands by its requirements and its rigorous third-party approach, which ensures that checks and balances are in place.

FSC is still committed to Belarus, its forests and people.  We continue to hold dialogue and promote responsible forest management principles, even if members are now based abroad. We will also continue to cooperate with Belarussian academia on promoting high conservation values and supporting sustainable forest legislation.

 

The technical basis for this decision  has been laid out in a revised risk assessment for Belarus and in an advice note for FSC accredited certification bodies, both published on 8 March 2022.  The termination of FSC certificates will become effective 30 days after the publication of the revised risk assessment.

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