FSC® and the Ecosystem Services Procedure
The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) is an independent, non-profit, international, non-governmental organization that was created to ensure that the world’s forests meet the social, environmental and economic needs of the present generation without compromising those of future generations. For this reason, since 1993 FSC has created the best-known and most rigorous responsible forest management certification scheme in the world. What does responsible forest management mean? It means management that is environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically sustainable.
Forests provide a number of essential services including oxygen, clean water, biodiversity, and more: the benefits provided by forests (technically referred to as “forest ecosystem services”) are many and essential to human well-being. FSC has recently developed a new tool – the Ecosystem Services Procedure (FSC-PRO-30-006) – that allows FSC-certified forest owners and managers to identify, measure, and third-party verify the positive impacts of responsible forest management on five categories of ecosystem services.
Capture and conservation of CO2 stored in forests
Maintenance or improvement of water quality and watersheds
Conservation or improvement of recreational services
Positive impacts, after being identified, measured and verified by a third-party auditor, can be translated into “verified impact statements“. These impact statements, in turn, can be used to promote responsibly managed forests and communicate the benefits of stewardship. The process also gives citizens, companies or other organizations the opportunity to invest in forests where the benefits have been verified in order to communicate their contribution to combating the climate crisis. The support given by companies and citizens is published on the FSC database, which then acts as a registry and ensures the transparency of the operation.
But what is the usefulness of this procedure?
Why verify the positive impacts of responsible forest management?
To understand how verifying positive impacts can be an opportunity for forest managers but also for companies and organizations outside the sector, it is necessary to first understand what happens outside the forests.
Faced with the effects of the climate crisis, which have become increasingly concrete and tangible, many entrepreneurs have realized that it is now time for everyone to do their part to combat this emergency and at the same time public opinion has begun to demand a change of course. This, together with the public declaration of the European Commission to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent, has pushed many companies and organizations to set themselves the goal of climate neutrality.
Some companies have gone even further, not content to become climate-neutral, but aspiring to become climate-positive (i.e., companies that capture and store more CO2 than they emit). But how do companies become climate-neutral or climate-positive? They do it by taking steps to measure their impacts, reduce them and ultimately support projects that take advantage of the capacity of natural ecosystems (such as forests) to capture and store the CO2 that they physically cannot avoid emitting in the course of their activities. That’s where forests and the FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure come in.
Are you a forest owner or manager and need support to create or improve your natural area?
Some companies combine climate objectives with other objectives aimed at improving nature or the welfare of society: here it is important to verify not only the positive impacts in terms of capture and conservation of CO2, but also the positive impacts on the conservation of biodiversity, soil and water resources, as well as on the tourist-recreational use of natural areas. In fact, the FSC Procedure on Ecosystem Services is the tool that will allow you to enhance the value of good forest management, helping you to give a value to those activities for which, until now, you struggled to find an economic recognition.
In summary, the steps to follow to benefit from the use of this tool are as follows:
- Manage forests responsibly by complying with the standard and obtaining FSC certification
- Complete a verification of the positive impacts of responsible forest management on ecosystem services (using the FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure)
- Seeking sponsors to support stewardship activities
In the search for sponsors, there are intermediaries and/or tools that can simplify the message and facilitate dialogue and encounters between the different needs of forest managers and potential sponsors (public or private organizations), “creating a bridge” between subjects that often speak “different languages”. In other words, these intermediaries can – thanks to their skills, competences and tools – facilitate the connection between potential sponsors and forest managers.
An example of tools able to facilitate this contact is the WOWnature® platform, managed by Etifor, which, thanks to the involvement of companies and citizens has already allowed the creation of many new urban green areas as well as the recovery of several forests damaged by the storm Vaia, also attracting considerable media attention that inevitably benefits both companies and area managers.
It is important to emphasize that this system mitigates risks associated with rights of use or ownership: the sponsor does not become the owner or manager of the forest, nor can he or she make demands for use or ownership of what the forest produces. Instead, the sponsor simply bears part of the costs incurred in carrying out the management activities that contribute to the generation of positive impacts. ETIFOR can help you to identify, measure and verify the positive impacts of your activities and – thanks to the use of the WOWnature platform – to find people and companies that want to contribute to the implementation of specific activities in the field aimed at improving your forests.
Are you an organization that wants to support
the creation and improvement of forests?
If you have decided that it is time for everyone to do their part, and you are ready to align yourself or even anticipate the objectives of the European Commission – making Europe the first climate-neutral continent – then you have found a tool that suits your needs. The FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure, can be part of a path to combat the climate crisis (learn more about our MARC approach) and can help you achieve your goals. How?
By supporting those who take care of the forests in the best possible way, namely forest owners and managers who comply with FSC responsible management standards. These managers are constantly engaged in activities – creating or improving forests – have generate positive impacts on the forests and the benefits they generate including CO2 capture and biodiversity conservation. The positive impacts of the activities carried out thanks to your support are then measured according to the terms dictated by the FSC Procedure on Ecosystem Services and subsequently verified with third party control before they can be used to achieve your corporate objectives of environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility.