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Forestry Certification Schemes - a answer to the sustainability of the use of wood.

The debate surrounding forest certification has resulted in the emergence of an increasing number of standards and schemes – with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) recording some 90 different initiatives worldwide. This has raised concerns that the variety of schemes on offer might confuse both consumers and producers of forest raw materials and products. Such confusion undermines the value of forest certification both as a tool to communicate good environmental practice and to promote sustainable forestry on the ground.

In our mind ,there really needs to be a a comprehensive source of comparative information on the world’s forest certification schemes designed to help overcome these problems.

One primary aim would be to provide reliable advice to customers and companies involved in the paper and wood products trade on the status of individual forest certification schemes and the labels issued under these schemes. A secondary aim would be to inform the developing international debate on harmonisation and mutual recognition of the wide variety of forest certification schemes currently under development around the world.

The resource should provide a set of tools for anyone that wishes to compare the content of forest certification standards, and the procedures used to certify against these standards. Users may compare certification schemes against their own set of criteria for a credible scheme.

For representatives of forest certification schemes, the resource could provide for regular update of scheme details on-line. Registered schemes would benefit from the wide-ranging publicity associated with such and registered schemes may also use  it to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their scheme against others.

What is a forest Certification Scheme?

A forest certification scheme is defined as a system of standards, rules and procedures for assessing conformity with specified forestry requirements. A forest certification scheme comprises at least
four elements:

Forest certification standards-setting bodies play a more limited role and are defined as organisations that are responsible for the setting of national, regional or provincial forest certification standards.

CEPI  has identified three “key requirements” that now seem to be widely recognised as the absolute minimum necessary for credible forest certification schemes.

Variable components of forest certification

While the key requirements represent a minimum threshold for credibIe certification, many forest certification schemes go further in establishing additional requirements for forest management in order to satisfy the demands of specific stakeholders. However at this time, there is no international consensus on these additional requirements. Furthermore, there may be good reasons for forest certification schemes to operate to variable standards and procedures. These reasons include:

Therefore many components of forest certification schemes may vary depending upon the schemes objectives and location. The website’s role with respect to these “variable components” is to report on how they are addressed, if at all, by each certification scheme. The website allows users to make their own comparisons and draw their own conclusions.  Through the provision of reliable comparative information on these components, the website aims to contribute to the on-going international debate regarding harmonization and mutual recognition of forest certification schemes.

Some examples of “variable components” of forest certification schemes identified by CEPI include.

International Forestry Principles

The content of forest certification standards is clearly critical in determining what the certification scheme delivers, both in terms of improved forestry performance and acceptance of the scheme by different stakeholders.

At an international level, a number of processes have made significant progress in identifying the range of issues that must be addressed when defining standards of “good” or “sustainable forest management”. These processes may be traced back to the discussion of sustainable development in the Brundtland report in 1987, but were greatly developed subsequently through the UNCED and related processes.

It is now widely accepted that forest certification standards should address the aspects of forest management identified in one or more of the following sets of international principles and criteria of sustainable forest management:

Governmental

An Example of Responsible Forest Stewardship

This logging operation depicts one of the solutions being proffered. It is an eco-certified second growth woodlot in BC's temperate rainforest. Locally controlled and operated, it provides seven times the provincial average for logging jobs per cubic metre of wood cut.

Selectively logged for the past 4 years, Al Hopwood's woodlot is part of the solution.

The wood is available for local sawmills and furniture manufacturers as well as open log markets. The local economy is stimulated by the provision of sustainable jobs and wood supply. Ecologically, it is a second growth forest on a gentle slope with no salmon streams. It is selectively logged and has been independently certified according to strict ecological criteria by the Silva Forest Foundation, a Forest Stewardship Council accredited certifying body. This is one of the first operations in BC to receive FSC certification. This is the future direction of forestry around the world.