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Third-Party Forest Certification As a result of growing environmental awareness and consumer demand for more responsible businesses, voluntary third-party forest certification emerged in the 1990s as a credible tool for communicating the environmental and social performance of forest operations. [1] With forest certification, independent organizations develop standards of good forest management, and independent auditors issue certificates to forest operations that comply with those standards. This certification verifies that forests are well-managed – as defined by a particular standard – and ensures that certified wood and paper products come from responsibly managed forests. [2]

Third-Party Certification[edit]

Product Certification is the process of certifying that a certain product has passed performance and quality assurance tests or qualification requirements stipulated in regulations such as a building code and nationally accredited test standards, or that it complies with a set of regulations governing quality and minimum performance requirements. In first-party certification, an individual or organization providing the good or service offers assurance that it meets certain claims. In second-party certification, an association to which the individual or organization belongs provides the assurance.[3] Third-party certification involves an independent assessment declaring that specified requirements pertaining to a product, person, process or management system have been met. [4]

Basics of Third-Party Forest Certification[edit]

Forest certification programs typically require that forest management practices conform to existing laws, and address key values such as protection of biodiversity, species at risk and wildlife habitat; sustainable harvest levels; protection of water quality; and prompt regeneration. In 2008, the National Association of State Foresters in the United States issued a policy statement, [5] which identified the following fundamental elements of credible forest certification programs: 1. Independent Governance – The governance body should include economic, environmental, and social interests and operate independently from participants and compliance verifiers or auditors. 2. Multi-Stakeholder Standard – A diverse group representing forestry, wildlife, conservation, industry, government and academic expertise should establish an objective standard for sustainable forestry with specific performance measures. 3. Independent Certification – Certification requires verifying compliance with the Standard during full certification and periodic surveillance audits. This should be accomplished by independent, qualified and accredited third-party auditors. Auditors should meet professional standards established by an independent accreditation body such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). 4. Credible Complaints & Appeals Process – There should be a clear process for credibly responding to on-the-ground compliance concerns or certification challenges. 5. Open Participation and Transparency – Public and private sector landowners, including family forest owners, should have access to any forest certification program for which they qualify.

Forest Certification Worldwide[edit]

There are more than 50 certification programs worldwide, addressing the many types of forests and tenures around the world. [6] Many of these forest certification programs operate at a national scale. Globally, the two largest international certification programs are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC). The UNECE/FAO 2009-2010 Forest Products Annual Review [7] reported that the global area of certified forest endorsed by FSC and/or PEFC by May 2010 amounted to 355 million hectares, equal to nine per cent of the world’s forests. PEFC is identified as the largest certification framework in terms of forest area, representing approximately two-thirds of the total certified area. Growth in FSC certification has been more rapid in recent times – much of this recent growth has occurred in North America and the Russian Federation. [8] While certification is intended as a tool to enhance forest management practices throughout the world, to date most certified forestry operations are located in Europe and North America. A significant barrier for many forest managers in developing countries is that they may lack the capacity to undergo a certification audit and maintain accountability to a certification standard [9], including the requirements for documentation and monitoring. Some public agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and businesses that buy wood products are working to improve forest management in developing countries using various stepwise approaches. Through a step-wise approach, forest managers agree to implement various forest management improvements progressively within a set time, and are provided technical assistance from NGOs and/or government agencies to meet their goals. Some wood and paper purchasing businesses may agree to continue purchasing products from participating forest operations during the transition period as a further incentive. [10]

Forest Certification in the United States and Canada[edit]

In the United States and Canada, there are a number of forest certification programs. Three of these programs are endorsed by the PEFC and these programs are the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), Canadian Standards Association’s Sustainable Forest Management Standards [11] and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Program. ATFS is applicable only in the United States; the Canadian Standards Association SFM Standard is applicable only in Canada. SFI program is applicable to both the United States and Canada. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) program is applied throughout North America.

Growing Convergence[edit]

In its 2009-2010 Forest Products Annual Review, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe/Food and Agriculture Organization stated: "Over the years, many of the issues that previously divided the (certification) systems have become much less distinct. The largest certification systems now generally have the same structural programmatic requirements." [12] A status report on forest certification released by non-profit Dovetail Partners Inc. in March 2010 said: “Significant changes have occurred within the major certification programs in recent years, and, in several ways, it is increasingly difficult to differentiate between certification systems in North America.” [13] The National Association of State Foresters passed a resolution in 2008 supporting all forest certification programs used in the United States, including the American Tree Farm System, the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, saying: “While in different manners, the ATFS, FSC, and SFI systems include the fundamental elements of credibility and make positive contributions to forest sustainability. . . . No certification program can credibly claim to be ‘best’, and no certification program that promotes itself as the only certification option can maintain credibility. Forest ecosystems are complex and a simplistic ‘one size fits all’ approach to certification cannot address all sustainability needs.” [14] The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers issued a statement in 2008 on forest certification standards in Canada, [15] which said: “Governments in Canada support third-party forest certification as a tool to demonstrate the rigor of Canada’s forest management laws, and to document the country’s world-class sustainable forest management record. The forest management standards of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) are all used in Canada. Governments in Canada accept that these standards demonstrate, and promote the sustainability of forest management practices in Canada.”

Chain of Custody Certification[edit]

An additional certification process, called chain-of-custody certification, is employed to track products from a certified forest through processing to the point of sale. [16] FSC, SFI and PEFC have chain-of-custody on-product labels. For more information, see chain|of|custody or FSC types of certificates (; PEFC chain of custody (; and SFI labels and claims ( PEFC Canada represents organizations in Canada that have certified their forestry operations to the Canadian Standards Association’s Sustainable Forest Management Standard, as well as organizations and businesses that are certified to the PEFC International Chain of Custody Standard. [17]

The United Nations reports that between January 2009 and May 2010, the total number of PEFC and FSC chain-of-custody certificates issued worldwide increased by 88% for a total of 23,717 certificates.

Forest Stewardship Council Label

Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification label

Sustainable Forestry Initiative Label

Procurement policies[edit]

Demand for wood and paper from certified forests is largely driven by business and government purchasing preferences, consumer interest in eco-labeled products, and ‘green building’ initiatives. [18] Green building rating systems around the world credit wood certified to all credible third-party programs, including ANSI/ICC 700-2008:National Green Building Standard; ANSI-GBI 01-2010 Green Building Assessment Protocol for Commercial Buildings (built on Green Globes U.S.); BREEAM (United Kingdom); CASBEE (Japan); Built Green Canada; Built Green Colorado, Green Globes (U.S. and Canada); and Green Building Council of Australia. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system offers one credit for FSC-certified wood. [19] The UNECE review says the commitment of large publishers and other customers of the paper sector has probably been the most significant factor driving growth in forest and chain-of-custody certification. Time Inc. has increased its supply of certified paper from 25% in 2002 to 80% by 2009. [20]

Hearst Corporation has increased its weighted average of certified fiber for its magazines from 38% in 2004 to 75% by 2009. [21]

The World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development have partnered to provide information to help major purchasers identify wood and paper-based products from well-managed forests. [22]

Certification and Illegal Logging[edit]

New legislation in consumer jurisdictions such as the European Union and United States designed to minimize the risk of wood from illegal sources entering supply chains has potential to boost demand for certified forest products. [23] In the United States, an amendment to the Lacey Act in 2008 makes it an offence to import or purchase any plant products, including timber, in violation of domestic or international laws. Third-party forest certification does not relieve importers of the requirement to submit appropriate import declaration information but does demonstrate due care. [24] The European Union has banned the sale of illegally sourced timber, and member states will be responsible for applying sanctions to those who break the rules. Among other things, it requires that anyone who sells timber or timber products shall exercise due diligence. Currently at least 20 percent of timber and timber products reaching the EU market are estimated to come from illegal sources.[25] [26] [27]

See also[edit]

Green Building Certification Illegal logging Sustainable Forest Management Sustainable management Certification


External links[edit]