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Responsible Sourcing and Forest Conservation with Forest Stewardship Council® CEO Melanie Robertson

To foster a world where forests and fashion coexist harmoniously, the fashion industry must urgently prioritise responsible sourcing to support the world’s forests.

by Sarah McLean

8 May 2024

Ahead of the FSC Roundtable Series in Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland, we asked FSC CEO Melanie Robertson about responsible sourcing and forest conservation in the fashion industry.

Melanie Robertson: The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) ensures sustainable forestry, prioritising wildlife protection, community rights, and worker well-being in the supply chains of forest-based products.

The fashion industry's pursuit of sustainable textiles has led to the rise of man-made cellulosic fibres (MMCFs), the fastest-growing segment in global fibre production. However, a significant portion of MMCFs is sourced from uncertified forests, exposing them to deforestation and illegal logging.

Additionally, other natural materials like rubber and cork are gaining popularity as renewable and forest-friendly options for the industry—however, their sustainability hinges on responsible sourcing practices.

To foster a world where forests and fashion coexist harmoniously, the fashion industry must urgently prioritise responsible sourcing to support the world’s forests. FSC certification stands as a proven solution for ensuring supply chain commitments and enabling responsible consumption.

Q: How does FSC intersect with the fashion industry?

Melanie Robertson: FSC prioritises robust protection for workers by actively monitoring its certificate holders to ensure strict adherence to the principles laid out by the International Labour Organisation. Our commitment extends to championing the rights of Indigenous peoples through the dedicated efforts of FSC's Indigenous Foundation, which focuses on Indigenous-led initiatives and solutions. Moreover, we enforce stringent requirements for forest owners and managers to respect land ownership rights, land use, and access to resources. Free, Prior, and Informed Consent is mandatory for all forest-related decisions.

FSC certification also ensures the highest requirements for biodiversity protection currently available for commercial forestry. Forest managers must protect rare, threatened, or endangered species and critical ecosystem services.

Our scrutiny of sustainability claims ensures that companies accurately represent FSC-certified products, preventing greenwashing and maintaining the integrity of our certification process.

Adopting a procurement policy that gives preference to FSC-certified products is a powerful sustainability tool that puts forests at the heart of decision-making.

Q: Tell us more about how FSC certification helps protect the workers and communities who depend on forests.

Melanie Robertson: FSC provides robust protection for workers by actively monitoring its certificate holders to ensure they adhere to the stringent principles and rights mandated by the International Labour Organisation. Our commitment extends to championing the rights of Indigenous peoples through the dedicated efforts of FSC's Indigenous Foundation, which prioritizes Indigenous-led initiatives and solutions. Moreover, we enforce strict requirements for forest owners and managers to respect land ownership rights, land use, and access to resources, with Free, Prior, and Informed Consent being mandatory for all forest-related decisions. Additionally, our scrutiny of sustainability claims ensures that companies accurately represent FSC-certified products, preventing greenwashing and maintaining the integrity of our certification process.

Q: FSC can be a powerful tool when sourcing virgin forest-based materials, but does it have a role to play in building a circular economy?

Melanie Robertson: Sustainable sourcing begins at the forest level. A central aspect of circular business models involves ensuring a regenerative supply, and FSC seamlessly aligns with this approach. Moreover, the FSC Recycled label signifies that a product is crafted from 100% recycled or reclaimed materials, actively contributing to the circular economy.

While advancements in technology facilitate the creation of fully recycled garments and textiles, the need for raw materials persists. By ensuring these raw materials come from FSC-certified sources, businesses can demonstrate their support for responsible forest management. FSC is actively engaged in developing additional circular solutions, such as rental, sharing, refurbishment, and repair models, which uphold the integrity of the FSC claim. As consumer awareness of sustainability and the environmental impact of fast fashion grows, there is an increasing preference for trusted third-party certification schemes like FSC to guide responsible purchasing decisions. It’s a small label that packs a big punch!

Want to find out more?

Join us at the FSC ANZ Fashion Roundtable Series throughout May and June in Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland. Register now to be part of the conversation on sustainable fashion and responsible sourcing:

  • Melbourne Museum, Treetops Room, Tuesday 21st May 2024 , 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. REGISTER HERE 
  • Doltone House, Sydney, Jones Bay Wharf, Wednesday 5th June 2024, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. REGISTER HERE 
  • GridAKL, Auckland, The Powerplant, Tuesday 25th June, 2024, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. REGISTER HERE 

image: © FSC / Bablu Singh



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