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 – documents, established by consensus and approved by a recognised body, which set out the forestry requirements which must be met.
  • Forest certification – the procedure by which an independent third party gives written assurance of
    conformance to the forest certification standards.
  • Accreditation of forest certification bodies – a procedure by which an authoritative body gives
    formal recognition that an independent third party is competent to carry out forest certification. 
  • A mechanism to control claims relating to forest management - including procedures to enforce
    a set of rules for organizations making these claims.

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.

  • ISO compatibility: during their development and subsequent operation, forest certification schemes
    should follow relevant ISO standards and guides.
  • Legal compliance: forest certification schemes should include a requirement that forestry operations comply with all relevant international and national legislation.
  • Conformance with international forestry principles: forest certification standards should address
    the aspects of forest management identified in one or more sets of international forestry principles.

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:

  • Differences in certification scheme objectives: forest certification schemes have been developed
    with different aims and objectives in mind. For example, some schemes are focused mainly on providing market rewards for exemplary forest management through the labelling of forest products; others
    are focused more on promoting progressive improvement in forest management nation-wide or industry-wide.
  • Differences in the size and nature of certification applicants: for example, while some schemes
    require full conformance with the ISO14001 environmental management system standard, in other
    schemes this is not a requirement as documentary requirements of ISO14001 are regarded as too onerous for small forest enterprises.
  • Differences in forest heritage: the huge variability in forest types and ownership frameworks, and the very different demands placed on forests around the world, may lead to significant and justifiable variation in the content of forest certification standards.

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.

  • actual range of interested parties involved in the standards-setting process, and the extent of their
  • scope of forest certification standards over and above the scope of international forestry principles;
  • detailed content of forest certification standards;
  • requirements for participation and consultation during forest management planning over and above
    legal requirements;
  • requirements for public reports from certification applicants;
  • provision of specific procedures for small forest enterprises (such as group certification, or simplified
    standards documents);
  • detailed requirements for forestry training and experience for auditing teams;
  • detailed requirements for conformity assessment, including the use of objective evidence on the ground,
    sampling, interpretation of the standard, handling of non-compliances, and follow-up surveillance
  • affiliation of accreditation body to the International Accreditation Forum
  • detailed requirements for the labelling of forest products.

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:


  • Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) Pan-European sustainable forest management criteria and indicators and operational guidelines.
  • Montreal Process “Statement on Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests” or “Santiago Declaration” (1995).
  • International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) Guidelines for Sustainable Management of Natural Tropical Forests and Guidelines for the Sustainable Management of Planted Tropical Production Forests (1993). ITTO Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Management of Natural Tropical Forests (1998).
  • The Tarapoto Proposal (1995) under the auspices of the Amazon Co-operation Treaty (ACT), criteria and indicators for the sustainable management of Amazonian forests.
  • African Timber Organisation criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management in African natural tropical forests.
  • National level criteria and indicators adopted by the FAO/UNEP Expert meeting on criteria and indica-CEPI  Comparative Website of Forest Certification Schemes -  tors for sustainable forest management in the Near East (Cairo, Egypt, 15-17 October 1996)
  • The Central American Process of Lepaterique, Criteria and indicators adopted by the “Expert Meeting on Criteria & Indicators (C&I) for Sustainable Forest Management in Central America” on January 20- 24, 1997.
  • The criteria and indicators agreed by an UNEP/FAO Expert Meeting on Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management in Dry Zone Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, November 21-24, 1995. Non-Governmental· The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Principles and Criteria.

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.