The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has pulled back on plans to make its proposed Online Claims Platform (OCP) mandatory to all certificate holders and has delayed its launch until early 2015.
OCP’s original 2013 rollout had already been delayed due to stakeholder concerns that this would present too great an extra administrative burden for companies such as paper merchants and printers, and so would push companies away from accreditation.
In a statement, FSC announced that OCP would now be a voluntary tool and that the body was in the process of further exploring a gap in the present chain of custody (CoC) certification system that "consists in the fact that the precise volumes of FSC certified forest products traded are not being compared between trading parties…"
The statement said the FSC board ‘Requests the further development of the OCP as one tool to close the gap, recognizing (sic) that other existing and future systems may serve the same purpose.’
Deputy director at FSC UK Rosie Teasdale said: “We’ve identified there’s an issue and we’re trying to make sure we address that issue. It may be that OCP is not the only answer to that. But I think for many people it still will be.”
Managing director at Northend Creative Nigel Stubley, an FSC-certified printer who’s previously described OCP as “an unnecessary and expensive burden”, said: “I’m reading this as they’re backing off big time. They’re backing down gracefully to save face, because when everybody eventually heard about this they were up in arms.”
FSC has also modified its OCP plans in response to concerns over data security.
“This always met full international security standards. But in response to feedback from stakeholders we’ll not now be collecting statistical information or generating intelligence based on certificate holder data,” said Teasdale.
“The plan originally was that we could collect generic intelligence from the OCP but that’s not now the intention. We’ll be able to look at certificate holders volumes in and volumes out in isolation, but not the whole supply chain.”
In its original iteration, mandatory OCP was designed to prevent instances of incorrectly labeled FSC and non-FSC paper by requiring all supply chain stakeholders to log each product online, and to verify claims logged by the next link in the chain.
Alternative methods approved by FSC might now consist of transactional auditing across certificate holders, where a direct comparison of output and input records of transactions at each of two certified trading parties would be made, said FSC. It added that the body would be working with Accreditation Services International (ASI) in 2015 to develop criteria on what constitutes credible means for transaction verification.
Stubley said that such new methods might not apply to printers, who are on the whole already logging FSC incomings and outgoings in a rigorous manner. “I can’t see how things could be any tighter at the printer’s end,” he said.
FSC announced in its statement that a new CoC standard would become effective in 2016. This is being devised in conjunction with ongoing investigations, including ‘fibre testing’, into fraudulent use of the FSC logo on non-FSC certified paper.
“There have been cases where products are discovered to carry the FSC label when they should not, with serious financial implications for affected companies having to remove these from sale,” reported Teasdale.
She added that there were almost 300 companies currently trialing OCP and suggesting improvements to the platform. “The fact we’ve still got companies signing up to trial it is quite a positive sign,” she said.