From 12 to 81: the story of PEFC membership & governance

From 12 founding members, to the current 81 members, we have grown and become global. But how have we got to this point? How has it changed the nature of PEFC?

From 12 to 81: the story of PEFC membership & governance

6 August 2019 20th anniversary

PEFC is much more than just the secretariat in Geneva. We are an alliance of national forest certification systems, NGOs, labour unions, businesses, trade associations, forest owner organizations and committed individuals. Together, we work towards our vision of a world that values the contribution of sustainable forests to our planet and our lives.

Our members are a vital part of the PEFC alliance. From the 12 founding members, to the current 81 members (51 national and 30 international stakeholder members), representing several hundred national stakeholder groups, we have grown and become global. But how have we got to this point – and how has it changed the very nature of PEFC?

Our founding members: forest owners

In 1999, 12 organizations came together to create PEFC. These organizations represented forest owners in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. 

The 2003 National Secretaries Meeting

Soon joined by organizations from other European countries, and then globally, these are our national members (also known as National Governing Bodies). They are independent, national organizations responsible for developing and running the national forest certification system within their country. 

One of the distinct characteristics of our national members is that they have the support of their country’s forest owners. Forest owners and managers are important stakeholders as they are responsible for implementing forest management requirements and pursuing certification. It is therefore essential that they are supportive of, and involved in, the national process. This is why we require that our national members obtain their support. 

National members manage “everything PEFC” within their respective country, as well as providing support to the PEFC-certified companies and forest owners. They can range in size from one person to a large team, but all of them are dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management within their country and globally. Meet our national members.

The early years: engaging the forest sector

It was soon clear that other organizations supporting the objectives of PEFC wanted to be involved, leading to the creation of extraordinary members. With this, we moved beyond our initial focus on forest owners, offering stakeholders from the entire forest sector the opportunity to become directly involved with PEFC. 

Organizations admitted into membership at this stage were the Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF), European Confederation of Woodworking Industries (CEI-Bois), European Landowners’ Organisation (ELO), European Timber Trade Association (FEBO) and Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI).

Achieving maturity: implementing multi-stakeholder governance

The PEFC alliance at the 2018 General Assembly

In 2008, it was time for a change. We appointed expert consultants to help undertake a comprehensive governance review with stakeholders worldwide. As a result, and in order to encourage a broader range of stakeholders to participate in the PEFC governance process, we introduced the international stakeholder member category. This enabled us to engage international actors for whom it is difficult to get involved at local and national level. 

The birth of international stakeholder membership represented a fundamental change in how PEFC was governed. But not only that: it changed the very nature of PEFC. 

Ten years on, there are 30 international stakeholder members from around the world - an integral part of the PEFC alliance. They include organizations, associations and international companies whose principles and objectives are in line with our own. These members perform a vital role in supporting the work we do. Meet our international stakeholder members.

PEFC today: a joint effort

Accepting international stakeholders into PEFC membership fundamentally changed our own understanding of ourselves. PEFC was no longer only about forest owners delivering a service to society. We became a joint effort of everyone interested in promoting sustainable forest management. 

Today, stakeholders of all realms of life not only participate in the development of our standards, but also in PEFC as a global association. They share their knowledge and offer a helping hand in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of our organization, and actively contribute to the governance of PEFC.


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