Both FSC certified concession holders and concession holders engaged to obtain FSC certification can participate to the Congo Basin Program (CBP). The CBP uses a selection procedure to make sure that only concession holders will participate who :
- will have a realistic chance to obtain FSC certification with the program period (for the not yet certified ones), and/or
- will have an added value to the program.
Selection of not FSC certified concession holders
In order to achieve the objective of 4 million complementary hectares FSC certified in 2015, the Congo Basin Program needs to make sure that only seriously engaged companies with the possibility to achieve FSC certification within the program period, are allowed to join the program. A procedure has been developed to assure that only those companies are selected.
Besides the written engagement to obtain FSC certification by the concession holder, a set of basic criteria are verified along the first four steps of the CBP working process. The criteria and the means of verification that are used during each of those steps are described below. After each of the steps has been completed, a concession holder can be excluded from further participation to the Congo Basin Program if the criteria are not met.
1. Letter of Intent
By signing the Letter of Intent the concession holder expresses its serious interest to obtain FSC certification through participation to the Congo Basin Program.
In the Letter of Intent, the concession holder specifies :
- with which concession(s) it would like to participate (a maximum of 4 is allowed unless the concessions are very small);
- what their surfaces are;
- what their current certification level is (OLB, TLTV, FSC, ISO 14001 …);
- its objective(s) in the framework of the Congo Basin Program;
- an indication of which services the company will need to achieve FSC certification.
The CBP secretariat compiles this information in a concession holder monitoring sheet. The gathered information allows to calculate the total surface of concessions that are in the process to become FSC certified, and to estimate the amount of subsidy available per company.
The CBP secretariat will only countersign the Letter of Intent if the following set of criteria is met :
- the concession holder should not have been involved in a corruption scandal for the last three years;
- the concession holder should not be involved in forced labor, or slavery-like activities;
- the concession holder should not be involved in serious social conflicts;
- the concession holder should not have outstanding lawsuits concerning their forest management;
- the concession(s) should not be obtained by controversial attribution;
- the concession holder should not belong to a (sister, mother or daughter) company that will exclude the company from becoming FSC certified based on the FSC ‘Policy of Association’;
- The company will provide information on its ownership / shareholder structure, to allow the program to understand exactly what links exist to other organisations.
These criteria are verified through a quick scan by the CBP secretariat (independent monitoring reports) and through stakeholder consultation. The stakeholders that are consulted are IDH, WWF/GFTN (Netherlands and regional coordinators of each Congo Basin country), (local) NGO’s, Form international and the regional coordinator of the CBP.
As soon as the abovementioned criteria are met a long list is formed with companies eligible for participation. A short list is created by applying the following selection criteria:
- Expected impact of subsidy on FSC certification process;
- Participation and investment in other program components: semi-commercial partnership with (neighboring) community foresters and local processing;
- Added value of concession holder to the program as a whole; the CBP strives to include a mix of participants (distribution between small and large producers, distribution among the 4 focus countries, all objectives of the program must be covered by the entire group of participants).
Concession holders that have been approved to start a collaboration with the CBP will receive a written answer with the countersigned Letter of Intent, a draft contract and information about the next steps of the process.
2. Full partnership established
The concession holder will fill out the collaboration contract which includes the following engagements:
- to be committed to obtain FSC certification before December 2015;
- the company does not obtain or seek other subsidies for its CBP co-financed activities (exception can be made where complementary funding can increase positive social and environmental impact).
The following criteria will be verified, for which the concession holder will send proofs to the CBP together with the contract:
- Official attribution of the concession to the concession holder (copies of the legal documents that testify that the concession or permits are attributed to the concession holder);
- Legal execution of the forestry activity (copy of the legality certificate (OLB, TLTV), or in absence, a declaration signed by the general director. This declaration should have attachments with copies of the legal existence of the company (statutes, inscription in national company register and chamber of commerce) and copies of tax payments related to the forestry activity);
- Minimum level of sustainable forest management of the concession (copy of the management plan and its appraisal document by the forestry ministry).
If the concession(s) is (are) located in a country where an independent observer has a contract with the forestry ministry for legality verification with regard to the EU FLEGT program, their reports will be consulted. In case these reports mention illegal activities of the concession holder, further proof will be asked from the company, to make sure that the infraction has been resolved in a legal way.
Only if all of the above mentioned criteria are met, the collaboration contract will be countersigned by the CBP secretariat.
3. Pre-audit done
The first activity that will be executed after signature of the collaboration contract by both parties, is the pre-audit. The pre-audit has to be executed by an FSC accredited party (a Certification Body).
During the FSC pre-audit a maximum of stakeholders, employees and documentation will be consulted, and field verifications will take place. This thorough analysis is the only way to have a full comprehension of the concession’s situation with regard to legality and responsible forest management according to the FSC standard. Therefore, the CBP secretariat will compensate half of the pre-audit costs. It also reserves the right to participate in the pre-audit.
The pre-audit report will be used to:
- identify major controversial situations that were not discovered during the previous steps in the selection procedure; and to
- estimate whether or not it will be feasible for the company to obtain FSC certification within the program duration (until Dec. 2015).
A major controversial situation will lead to immediate ending of the collaboration contract with the concession holder.
If large gaps are identified between the FSC criteria and the actual forestry practices of the concession holder, its willingness and capability to make all the necessary changes will be discussed. If positive, the next step will be decisive for further collaboration.
4. Next steps
The company will need to prepare an action plan based on the pre-audit report, including all activities necessary to prepare de company for the initial FSC audit and a corresponding time schedule. The company will also have to precise for which activities in the plan they would like to receive subsidy from the Congo Basin Program.
The CBP secretariat will provide guidance to the concession holder when finalizing its action plan, to make sure that it contains all necessary elements. The CBP secretariat will also evaluate if the requested subsidy estimates are within the maximum amount allowable. Once the action plan has been approved by both of the parties, the concession holder can send the CBP secretariat the budget proposal and terms of reference of an action that will be executed by a service provider listed in the catalogue ( bytes). An action will only receive subsidy from CBP for the agreed activities and if the budget proposal and terms of reference have been approved beforehand.
During the implementation of the action plan, the progress made by the concession holder will be regularly monitored. When delays are observed, the concession holder will be consulted to help find solutions to get back on track. Through the stakeholder network of the CBP, the Secretariat will continue obtaining information about critical cases of its concession holder partners. If the CBP secretariat is convinced that the concession holder is not making enough progress to possibly achieve FSC certification before December 2015, or in case a major controversial situation appears, the CBP secretariat will reserve the right decide to end the collaboration contract.
Selection of FSC certified concession holders
1. Letter of Intent
An already certified concession holder will send a copy of their last audit report with their Letter of Intent.
In the Letter of Intent, it will specify objectives with regard to willingness to:
- participate and invest in additional program components: semi-commercial partnership with (neighboring) community foresters, or improvement of local processing units;
- share knowledge and good practices on responsible forest management and FSC certification with the program and program participants.
Those concession holders with added value to the CBP overall objective, will primarily receive support.