Working Group on Forest Certification

Overview of Forest Certification

Growing environmental awareness and consumer demand for more socially responsible businesses through certification emerged in the 1990s as a credible tool for communicating the environmental and social performance of forest operations. Forest certification is an important tool for those seeking to ensure that the paper and wood products they purchase and use come from forests that are well-managed and legally harvested.

There are many potential users of certification. They include forest managers, investors, environmental advocates and consumers of wood and paper.

In forest certification, an independent organization develops standards of good forest management which is then used by independent auditors who issue certificates to forest operations that comply with those standards. Thus certification ensures that wood products come from a forest that is responsibly managed.

This rise of certification led to the emergence of several different systems throughout the world. As a result, there is no single accepted forest management standard worldwide, and each system takes a different approach in defining standards for sustainable forest management.

The certification organization is governed by a diverse set of interests and works with a broad array of stakeholders to establish a set of standards for the management of forests and the tracking of raw material throughout the supply chain. The coordinating organization is typically modeled after a number of principles put forth by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). These principles provide guidance on governance, standards development, assessing the qualifications of certifiers, and the procedures for verifying that practices meet the certification standard.

The auditor/certifier is the organization that has the technical expertise for verifying that on-the-ground practices conform to the certification standard. Certification systems rely on accredited auditors to carry out these verifications. Auditors are evaluated to ensure they have the technical capacity to objectively evaluate forestry operations.

The forest products company is responsible for understanding and carrying out forest management practices in a manner that meets or exceeds the standards of the certification system. Many certification systems also have mechanisms for tracking forest products through the supply chain. Therefore, companies such as furniture, window and door manufacturers that purchase and sell forest products can verify that their products use raw material derived from responsibly managed forests.