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What do the FSC Principles mean for you?

FSC’s vision for responsible forest management is set out in its international Principles and Criteria. But what does this mean for owners and managers of woodlands in the UK?

FSC defines the Principles as ‘the essential rules or elements of environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable forest management’, while the Criteria ‘provide the means of judging whether or not a Principle has been fulfilled’.

There are ten Principles, one of which, relating to Indigenous Peoples, is not applicable in the UK context. In our country, these ‘essential rules’ might be simplified and summarised as follows:

• Ensure everything you do in your woodland is lawful, and as far as possible, protect your woodland from the unlawful actions of others.
• Look after the people who work in your woodland, and respect their rights.
• Contribute to your community, respecting their rights and, where possible, providing opportunities for work and play in your woodland.
• Ensure your woodland provides sustainable benefits to you, your community and/or wider society.
• Protect the woodland environment.
• Know your woodland, have a vision for it, and know what you have to do to achieve that vision; you should be able to communicate this information to others.
• Understand how your woodland changes – in response both to your actions and to other influences – and adjust your actions if necessary to achieve your vision.
• Protect and, where possible, enhance any particularly important features of the natural, historical or cultural environment in your woodland; if you’re not sure what the effects of your actions will be on these features, you should always err on the side of caution.
• Everything you do to achieve your vision should be done appropriately and well.

The full, formal text of the Principles and their associated Criteria is the basis for national forest stewardship standards like UKWAS. But the simplified version above is essentially what FSC certificate holders are being asked to commit to; a commitment that we believe will help to achieve FSC’s aspiration of Forests For All Forever.

Why ‘environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable’?

The three pillars of sustainable development – the economy, the environment and society – were explicitly recognised at the highest level in the 1987 Brundtland Report (WCED,1987). The ‘triple bottom line’ of economic growth, environmental maintenance and social equity has been a constant feature of discussions about appropriate management of the world’s resources ever since.

WCED (World Commission on Environment and Development) (1987). Our common future. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

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