25 January 2022, Kuala Lumpur – Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) Malaysia has published its new FSC National Forest Stewardship Standard (NFSS), which now includes requirements for non-timber forest products (NTFP) (e.g. natural rubber/latex), among others. The new standard presents an opportunity for Malaysia’s upstream natural rubber producers (dominated by smallholders), to meet the global demand-supply gap of FSC-certified natural rubber.

“We do recognise the challenges that smallholders face, and have identified opportunities to address them.” said Dr. Adrian Choo, Board Chair of FSC Malaysia.

“Some of the changes made in the standard are aimed at facilitating the auditing and certification process for smallholders, thereby reducing implementation time and cost. FSC Malaysia is prepared to work with all relevant stakeholders to support them towards sustainable natural rubber production and certification. With FSC-certification, rubber producers can expect improvement in not just yields and livelihoods, but better care for nature and the vital ecosystems that they provide.” Dr. Adrian Choo added.

All over the world, FSC national forest stewardship standards are developed based on the 10 principles of FSC, which set out global requirements to be met by forest operations before they can receive FSC Forest Management certification. These principles cover a broad range of issues, from maintaining high conservation values (HCV) to well-being of local communities and workers’ rights, as well as monitoring the environmental and social impacts of forest management.

With collective effort and collaboration amongst key stakeholders in the industry, FSC’s standards on responsible forest management and trusted label can:

  • support Malaysia in advancing on its sustainable forest management commitments,
  • enhance the credibility of Malaysia’s timber and natural rubber/latex industry,
  • improve market access for Malaysian forest-based products, and
  • support Malaysia in addressing and progressing on its Sustainable Development Goals ambition and targets.

Importance of sustainable forest management in the face of rising demand for forest-based products
With increasing global demand for timber for construction and furniture, wood-based household products, paper, packaging, forest-based hygiene products, textiles and NTFPs (such as natural rubber/latex, rattan, bamboo, etc.), responsible forest management is pivotal for existing natural forests and plantations, as well as for areas of future sustainable growth and resilience. Jointly with responsible forest management, a sustainable supply chain is essential, one which ensures traceability and complies with recognised best practices.

Conscious consumerism and global shift towards renewable sources/materials
Consumers play an important role in motivating businesses to produce more responsibly. According to a recent global consumer survey conducted by GlobeScan, consumers are increasingly concerned about sustainability issues associated with forests, and show a preference for products that take care of forests. In fact, 86 per cent of consumers try to avoid products that damage biodiversity and 70 per cent want to choose products that do not contribute to climate change. The survey also revealed that FSC is the world’s most recognised and trusted forest certification scheme to protect the world’s forests, and consumers’ belief in the importance of independent certification is increasing.

As the world shifts away from fossil fuel-based materials (e.g. synthetic rubber and plastic) and carbon intensive sectors (e.g. steel and concrete) to renewable resources, we are seeing increasing global demand for FSC-certified materials and products, driving the expansion of FSC-certified timber-related and natural rubber operations (for both wood and latex) in the Asia Pacific region.

Today, the global demand for certified natural rubber is rising rapidly and more than 80% of the total natural rubber supply comes from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, China and India, predominantly from smallholder-farmers. Despite the exponential growth in certified rubber smallholder groups in recent years, supply of certified natural rubber still falls short in meeting global demand.

The new NFSS of Malaysia (FSC-STD-MYS-01.1-2021 EN) can be viewed/downloaded at the FSC Document Centre here. A Bahasa Malaysia version will be available on FSC Malaysia’s website (https://my.fsc.org/en-my) in due course.

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For any queries on the new NFSS of Malaysia, please contact FSC Malaysia Country Manager, Charmaine Chee at info@my.fsc.org.