Forest Stewardship Council
Accelerating forest protection with modern data and AI
At a glance
We helped the leader in sustainable forestry develop a technical blueprint for integrating a robust advanced analytics platform architecture that will allow FSC to harness the power of artificial intelligence.
The Forest Stewardship Council now has a modern data foundation that saves time with predictive capabilities and paves the way for more AI innovation. This work strengthens a worldwide mission of nourishing healthy forests—and a healthy environment.
Environmental services and natural resources
Key Technologies / Platforms
- Data strategy
- Data architecture
- Machine learning
- Artificial intelligence
- Geographic information system (GIS)
Growing a sustainable solution
Our forests not only purify the air we breathe but also help us combat climate change. For global organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®), protecting healthy forests is a lifelong mission—and one it takes seriously.
With headquarters in Germany and offices around the world, FSC unites businesses, individuals, and governments in protecting forests. Following accreditation with FSC, businesses or governments are able to use the FSC stamp on their products, so consumers are aware of the organization’s sustainability actions.
To do its accreditation work, FSC gathers a large amount of sustainability and ethical use data, as well as certification and compliance data for customers. There’s also a large and diverse process flow that the council follows to evaluate customers and determine if they meet the parameters for FSC certification.
Today, there are 50,000 FSC certificate holders and more than 150M hectares of certified forests.
Within FSC, the system integrity team helps ensure that forest certification is vetted. “This means if somebody is saying that they are sustainably harvesting and growing timber products, that it’s true,” says Scot McQueen, senior technology officer for the Forest Stewardship Council.
As the integrity of the certificate is so critical, a challenge presented itself: FSC’s system didn’t always identify violators and the council’s employees were spending too much time on data processing.
Fortunately, McQueen and his team knew there was a way to improve the system that would leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to provide scalability for the future.
The council also knew the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) start date was fast approaching, a law that is part of the European Union’s Green Deal plan. With the EUDR, any company that is selling forest products in the European Union has to verify where the product came from geographically.
Digging into the future of forestry data
Slalom joined FSC’s mission as a strategic partner to help the council craft its vision of a future state. Through workshops, the team analyzed FSC’s current infrastructure and datasets, and then made recommendations to support the foundational datasets.
The Slalom team delivered an overall architecture and recommendations on how to proceed with the vision as well as bring it into production and mature the system for future scalability.
The risk mitigation (or policy for association) and risk assessment processes McQueen refers to are two components of the work. The first requires that a customer cannot be associated with a deforestation or human rights violation or have been kicked out of the FSC system previously. With risk assessment, FSC looks at a region and assesses its geopolitical risk, instability, and other deforestation problems. Using a host of criteria, the council then produces a risk index.
If the risk index is high enough, FSC would require other due diligence procedures to be implemented. “For instance, you have a certificate in Myanmar and they’re dealing with teak and other products. We would send out auditors if needed. It’s an easy, data-driven way to use machine learning to try to get ahead of a potential violator,” McQueen says.
McQueen adds, “The workshops helped us better understand the business cases we were trying to solve and find potential data sources that could help us with the risk mitigation and risk assessment processes.”
Clarifying a vision with AI and ML
McQueen feels Slalom provided an eye-opening experience for the system integrity team, giving the team a solid understanding of the technical solution and how it would benefit FSC.
“This work has become the North Star that’s now guiding the system integrity team,” McQueen says.
The solution is also valuable for FSC’s certificate holders. McQueen says, “Honestly, Slalom helped us clarify the vision in a way we could also then communicate out to our certificate holders to get them comfortable with the new solution.”
FSC now has a clear roadmap to proficiency in applying AI and ML. Slalom helped break the journey down into manageable steps—setting up the council to become a modern organization and the system integrity team to mature from a technological perspective.
“This work helps drive what we’re doing at FSC," McQueen says. “In my role with FSC, I’m trying to help drive the adoption of technology in the certification process so we can make sure people are doing the right things—or getting the assistance they need to do them.”
Gaining efficiencies with predictive capabilities
Today’s work will benefit the FSC employees tomorrow in terms of hours saved with modernization and speeding up the certification process.
FSC employees will reap the benefits of the ML prediction capabilities that can forecast which individuals, companies, or governments may be falling out of compliance over time.
“It’s amazing to see a practical application with a huge downstream impact on protecting the forests, protecting the workers, and making sure that we can help customers in risky areas continue to do the right thing,” McQueen says. “That’s a practical application of some very sophisticated modeling and software.”
Strengthening a worldwide ESG mission
By assisting FSC with its work protecting forests around the globe, there is also an impact on supporting ethical forestry practices.
“This work not only ensures the FSC logo and brand represents responsible environmental stewardship," says McQueen. "But it also includes the ability to stop deforestation before it starts. Deforestation and forest degradation are part of the EUDR, so this helps us stop that before it occurs and continue to encourage companies that are trying to do the right thing.”
McQueen notes that much of the Slalom work will help FSC certificate holders comply with the EUDR.
As for the future, FSC and Slalom will continue to work together to help FSC save the forests by continuing to modernize the council’s systems.
McQueen adds, “Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and geospatial analysis are all very technology-focused terms. But through this work Slalom did with FSC, we have a practical application of some advanced technologies that is just simply protecting existing forests from deforestation or further degradation and protecting the Indigenous people and communities that make a living in these forests. And that is a hugely powerful application of complicated, obtuse technology.”
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