Private Initiatives Forest Certification

Over the last decade, a number of nongovernmental processes to support sustainable forest management have emerged throughout the world and the boreal region. These processes were initiated by civil society, namely nongovernmental environmental organizations, the forest industry, and major trade unions, mainly as a response to the growing frustration created by conventional approaches to forest policy. Certification is a market-based tool, which aims at enabling consumers to purchase wood products from well-managed forests through a labeling system.

The main certification schemes in use in the boreal region include:

• the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC),

• the Pan-European Forest Certification Scheme (PEFC),

• the American Forest and Paper Association (AF and PA)'s Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and

• the Canadian Standard Association's Sustainable Forest Management Standard (CSA).

All the above-mentioned schemes operate in a similar way, although there are important differences among them. They all aim at providing an independent, third-party assurance that a forestry operation meets a set of environmental, social, and economic standards for sustainable forest management, which are predefined by the respective certification scheme.

All certification schemes are voluntary (forest companies choose whether or not they want to apply for certification) and the government has no direct role in the process. When a company decides to pursue certification of its forestry operations, the forests are evaluated according to previously defined standards and certified as well managed by an independent auditor. Wood products from those forests are then labeled so that consumers can identify them as coming from well-managed sources.

The standards set by all four schemes operating in the boreal region vary greatly from each other, and so does the reliability of their respective logos. For instance, the FSC has developed rigorous performance-based criteria covering ecological, social, and economic aspects while none of the other schemes have a performance-based certification standard. This means that a forest can be certified under the PEFC without being visited by an auditor. The SFI and the CSA do not have adequate monitoring and control mechanisms and have both certified clear cutting in high conservation value forests. There are also important variations between the schemes with respect to the involvement and decision-making power of various interest groups. Here again, the FSC system— which was set up by NGOs, industry, and trade unions—is the only one among the four schemes to assure equal decision-making power to economic, social, and ecological interest groups. The other schemes are all dominated by economic interests as they were set up by the forest industry. Although consultation processes with affected parties are required in most cases, neither PEFC, SFI nor CSA consider those consultations binding.

Consumer demand for certified forest products is a powerful incentive for forest managers to adopt more ecologically, socially, and economically sound practices, and for retailers and manufacturers to seek wood from certified forests. However, the proliferation of various certification schemes with different logos and different requirements for sustainable forest management may lead to confusion on the market place.

Elisa Peter

Forest areas certified under different certification schemes in Canada, Russia, and Scandinavia (ha)

FSC

PEFC

SFI

CSA

Canada

3,061,532

0

?

?

Alaska

?

0

?

0

Sweden

9,930,034

2,276,444

0

0

Norway

5100

9,352,000

0

0

Finland

93

21,910,000

0

0

Russia

1,040,594

0

0

0

See also Boreal Forest Ecology; Coniferous Forest; Taiga

Further Reading

Agarwal Anil, Sunita Narain & Anju Sharma, Global Environmental Negotiations 1—Green Politics, New Delhi: Center for Science and Environment, 1999 Fern, Behind the Logo—An Environmental and Social Assessment of Forest Certification Schemes, 2001, see Fern website: www.fern.org Grayson, A.J. & W.B. Maynard, The World's Forests—Rio +5: International Initiatives Towards Sustainable Management, Commonwealth Forestry Association, 1997 Greenpeace International, The Carbon Bomb: Climate Change and the Fate of the Northern Boreal Forests, Amsterdam: Greenpeace International, August 1994 Mankin William E., Entering the Fray—International Forest Policy Processes: An NGO Perspective on their Effectiveness, Policy that works for forests and people Series No: 9, edited by James Mayers, London: International Institute for Environment and Development 1998 Status of Implementation of Forest-Related Clauses in the CBD—An Independent Review and Recommendations for Action, Fern and Global Forest Coalition, 2002. Taiga Rescue Network web site: www.taigarescue.org

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