CIFOR Occasional Paper 103: Social impacts of the Forest Stewardship Council certification: An assessment in the Congo basin

 

Authors: Cerutti, P.O.; Lescuyer, G.; Tsanga, R.; Kassa, S.N.; Mapangou, P.R.; Mendoula, E.E.; Missamba-Lola, A.P.; Nasi, R.; Eckebil, P.P.T.; Yembe, R.Y

 

This Occasional Paper assessed the social performance of nine forest management units (FMU) certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and compared it with the performance of nine similar noncertified FMUs in Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo and Gabon. Results showed that the longer one company remained in one place, the deeper social relations with the neighbouring population became. This in itself is conducive to an environment in which there is less conflict between the local population and logging companies. However, it is usually only after companies decided to pursue certification that several practical social improvements occurred. In particular, in certified FMUs, this study found better working and living conditions for workers and their families; more inclusive and better governed institutions for negotiations between the local population and logging companies, except with regard to conflict-resolution mechanisms; better managed and more effective benefit-sharing mechanisms; and innovative ways of dealing with problems related to infringement of customary uses.

 

The complex historical and political-economic reality in which certification has developed in the Congo basin might well make issues of attribution and causality difficult to clarify. Yet results help establish a clear boundary that currently exists between certified and noncertified timber: The former is sourced in FMUs that implement not only legally mandated social standards but also voluntarily adopted ones that are superior and more effective.

 

There should of course be no complacency from the FSC or logging companies with certified FMUs in comparing themselves with the ‘bottom,’ as the logic of the FSC is to reward more responsible forest managers who are assessed against ever-evolving standards, irrespective of the quality of national legislation. But one should also not forget that companies with certified FMUs in the study countries are competing less against a theoretical global logging company than against their neighbours, who daily produce the same species and sell on similar markets, albeit with much lower investments, especially those targeted to improve social performance. In this very competitive and uneven playing field, and with the scarce price premiums obtained so far, the evidence presented indicates that certification in the Congo basin has been able to push companies toward remarkable social progress.

 

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