FSC closer to finalising long–running Chain of Custody standard

By Hannah Jordan, Friday 08 July 2016

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The Forest Stewardship Council believes it has now ironed out major sticking points for stakeholders in the proposed standard, including the Online Claims Platform.

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FSC has reached a compromise on the OCP

The Online Claims Platform (OCP) was controversially set for roll-out in 2013 as a mandatory reporting system for every stakeholder in the paper supply chain, including printers.

The system, designed to reduce or eradicate instances of falsely labelled FSC products would require Chain of Custody (CoC) certificate holders to log each product online and verify FSC claims from their supply chain partners.

The FSC back-tracked on plans to make this madatory in 2014, after stakeholders voiced major concerns. As a result it went back to the drawing board and re-drafted the proposed standard, reaching a compromise for the latest iteration.

Under the new version, reporting on the OCP will be a combination of mandatory and voluntary, depending on the user’s perceived category of risk. 

Now in its third consultation, FSC officials visited the UK last month to gather opinions.

“Our UK stakeholders were loud and clear in their objections about the mandatory OCP,” said FSC supply chain integrity director Phil Guillery.

“We are committed to streamlining and simplifying our standards but they also have to be credible. The simple solution would be that everyone has to do it, it would be more consistent. But our UK stakeholders have basically said to us “we are complying, why should we have to do this when we already follow the rules?” so we have gone back and adapted to that,” he said.  

In general, Guillery explained, print and paper industries in Europe and North America are considered low risk and as such reporting on the OCP will be voluntary for FSC CoC certificate holders in those regions, while in some other regions such as Asia and South America, those identified as high risk will have to complete transaction verification on the system as a mandatory requirement to hold the CoC standard. 

“FSC has a value in the market place so there are always going to be people that try to cheat the system like many other brands. We are aware that in some supply chains, as we grow, there is some risk of false claims being passed along.

“What we want to achieve for certificate holders who are low risk is a system that will allow them to identify the risk, so they can protect themselves and we can close this gap.

“It’s unlikely that UK printers and merchants will be affected by this because risk is low, and for them the OCP is just a voluntary tool. It is their responsibility though to check that their supplier is FSC certified if they claim to be. Many countries don’t have the culture of compliance that we have in the UK and Europe so we need to adapt and adjust to that,” he said. 

Other proposed changes to the standard include allowing multi-site certificate holders to share credit accounts and to calculate credit percentages of FSC and non-FSC controlled products across several sites.  

Additionally the threshold for FSC-labelled recycled wood products would be reduced from 85% to 70% to bring them inline with FSC Mix products, which come from recycled and virgin materials. 

“I expect the changes for the credit system will be welcomed in the UK and I understand there has been concern over the transaction verification system, but now they won’t be made mandatory this will be a simpler system for them to participate in and provides a lot of flexibility. That’s why we wanted to review this again,” said Guillery. “We hope this will be the last consultation, we’re just trying to resolve these specific points.”

The FSC also intends to produce advice and guidance to incorporate into the new standard, which, if approved by the FSC board, is expected to be published around March 2017 with implementation by certificate holders a year later. 

Consultation responses can submitted online until 31 August by visiting www.fsc-uk.org.

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