Learning to Become an FSC Auditor

Objectivity, Interpretation, and Mastery

  • William Clark Cook Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group, Wageningen University
  • Esther Turnhout Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group, Wageningen University
  • Severine van Bommel


This paper aims to open up the black box of auditing for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest management standard. Specifically, we delve into the early steps of becoming an FSC auditor by examining two auditor training sessions in northern Europe. Using a mix of participant observation and unstructured interviews, the paper subjects the trainings to analysis focusing on the ways in which trainees are taught to become FSC experts. Alongside being an exploratory piece on the nature of FSC auditor training, we show how auditing expertise is a matter of performing objectivity and how interpretation is a key aspect of these performances. Learning how to do interpretation, and what values should guide this interpretation, is part of the training but also poses a challenge to the teachers because these aspects cannot be seen to impinge on the objectivity of auditing. We suggest that the mitigation of these tensions during the performance of objectivity is the hallmark of auditing expertise. We conclude our analysis by discussing expertise as a matter of reflecting on and aligning objectivity, values, and interpretation.


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