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Governance and legitimacy of the Forest Stewardship Council certification in the national contexts – A comparative study of Belarus and Poland

Krzysztof Niedziałkowski and Anton Shkaruba

Forest Policy and Economics, 2018, vol. 97, issue C, 180-188

Abstract: With their the third and the fourth position in Europe in terms of the area of certified forests, Belarus and Poland hold important positions in the European FSC certification landscape. These neighbours, however, display differences as to the FSC implementation process, with smooth institutionalisation in Belarus and conflicts and closing of the FSC National Office in Poland. Based on the written materials and interviews we explored the governance and legitimacy of FSC decision-making in both countries to assess the impact of the structure of national forest sectors on the perception of FSC as a legitimate certification standard. Our results suggest that the critical difference consisted in the role of the government, which in Belarus championed FSC certification, encouraged all actors to participate and comply with FSC rules, even if those rules required changing national rules or ignoring potential conflicts. The effectiveness of FSC depends solely on the strong support of the government and can collapse if the support is withdrawn. In Poland, the government did not engage, leaving a free hand to the state bureaucracy and a major economic actor managing most of the forests in Poland. Strategic struggles between forestry actors and NGOs reduced the legitimacy of FSC certification. To change the status quo a government intervention might be necessary.

Date: 2018
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