COVID-19, Update for Forestry Certificate Holders
To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Soil Association Certification has introduced additional protocols to help assess the risks associated with our business activities.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has already affected the lives of everyone in some way, and its impact will continue for some time. Soil Association Certification is working with FSC® and PEFC™ in implementing measures to help our certificate holders maintain their certification in these extraordinary times.
If an on-site audit is not possible, please find a brief summary of your options below - if your audit is due in the next two months, please get in touch with your usual contact person at Soil Association Certification, or the agent we work with in your country, to discuss how to proceed.
Remote audit to substitute* an on-site surveillance audit
We'll undertake a risk assessment against the criteria developed by both FSC and PEFC to determine whether a surveillance audit can be conducted remotely. If a remote audit is possible, we'll contact you to make the necessary arrangements.
*depending on results of the remote surveillance, there may be a need to follow up with an on-site visit later in the year, otherwise your next on-site audit will be next year as per the regular annual schedule.
Re-assessments due in 2020
Under the FSC and PEFC rules, we aren't currently able to carry out a full re-assessment audit remotely. We, therefore, have the following options:
a) If an on-site re-assessment audit cannot be carried out, we'll try to arrange a remote surveillance audit (as per the above) prior to the expiry date. After a successful surveillance audit, we'll extend the validity of your certificate by 12 months and carry out the re-assessment next year
b) If (a) is not possible, due to an imminent expiry date, but a remote surveillance is potentially possible within 2020, we'll first extend the scope of your certificate for 12 months, and arrange an on-site or remote audit in 2020
Chain of Custody Multi-Site certificate holders – Internal audits
Where on-site internal audits would normally be carried out, both FSC and PEFC are allowing remote internal audits to take place. Please refer to the technical update for more information.
Forest Management Multi-Site/Group certificate holders – Internal audits
Where on-site internal audits would normally be carried out, both FSC and PEFC are allowing flexibility, for remote audits or delay to the end of 2020, respectively. Please refer to the technical update for more information.
FSC derogation for COC certificate holders – tissue and hygiene products
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic situation, there is an increased demand for tissue and hygiene products, and FSC are now beginning to see a shortage of recycled fibre to use in these products. This is particularly due to the current supply constraints and travel restrictions in many areas of the world. FSC have issued a derogation allowing the use of virgin fibre for tissue and hygiene products carrying the 'FSC Recycled' label under various conditions. Please refer to the technical update for more information.
FSC derogation for COC certificate holders - reduced labelling threshold in 'FSC Mix Percentage' products in the timber, furniture and construction industries
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic situation, FSC have introduced a derogation providing measures to temporarily reduce the labelling threshold for 'FSC Mix Percentage' products in the timber, furniture and construction industry. Please refer to the technical update for more information.
FSC remote surveillance audit clarification
FSC clarification to allow remote surveillance audits by COC Group Managers of participating sites in all cases where COVID-19 restrictions are in place. Note that, to add NEW participating sites, this is only possible via a remote audit if the site is:
- Trading in finished and labelled products (e.g. retailers); or
- Trading products without taking physical possession of products (e.g. traders); or
- Exclusively handling certified products made of a single input material (e.g. the whole site production is FSC 100%)
Please see the amended technical update for detail.
Auditor Training Courses
We have postponed our auditor training courses scheduled for April and will re-schedule for later in the year.
Further Information And Guidance
- FSC® COVID-19 Update for CBs
- PEFC COVID-19: Guidance for certification bodies and certified companies
Keeping You Up To Date
All staff, auditors and agents will follow the official advice in their country regarding hygiene measures. We all need to work together to maintain health and safety.
Communication with your Account Manager should remain the same and we'll continue to deliver a high level of service to you during this challenging time. To enable this, we have equipped all of our staff to be able to work from home.
We remain fully committed to supporting your business and ensuring the continuation of your certification throughout these challenging times.
We'll continue to update our Forestry News pages with any new information or guidance as it becomes available.