PEFC – A manifestation of a passion for forests

PEFC has turned 20, but what was the situation before this, what led to our creation back in June 1999? Let’s take a look…

PEFC – A manifestation of a passion for forests

9 July 2019 20th anniversary

While there is a definite day on which PEFC was founded – the 30th June 1999 – the idea that led to PEFC evolved during a range of meetings and discussions that lasted over a year. PEFC was neither the only, nor the most significant, outcome of these discussions. 

But what could be more significant than PEFC, an organization that evolved to become the world’s leading forest certification system?

Passion, or more concretely, the understanding of small- and family forest owners that they all share the same passion for forests, for responsible forest management. That they all benefit from collaboration and cooperation, from sharing best practices and mutually supporting each other. And that they needed to start speaking with one voice to get themselves heard – and PEFC became part of this voice. 

Speaking with one voice was urgently needed at that time. In the 1990s, decision makers in politics, international and intergovernmental organizations, engaged in a range of processes aimed at defining sustainable forest management, including the Forest Europe  process, the 1992 Rio Forest Principles, the Montreal Process, the Lepaterique Process or the ITTO process. 

These processes were all – and some are still – important, and shaped our common understanding of sustainable forest management. Yet they all shared one significant challenge: while the multitude of processes is a recognition that forests are highly diverse, these processes didn’t recognize that forest management, local traditions, cultural and spiritual expectations, average property sizes and support structures are highly diverse as well. 

This challenge was amplified by the inability of small-and family forest owners to speak with one voice, to raise awareness of their specific circumstances within these high level processes. 

The meetings and discussions that led to the foundation of PEFC took place against this backdrop. Unsurprisingly, the recognition that forest management is diverse, and that this diversity means one size does not fit all when it comes to forest certification, is core to PEFC. 

This is why we do not set one international standard that all forest owners must follow in order to achieve certification. Instead, we work through national forest certification systems, enabling countries to tailor their sustainable forest management requirements to their specific forest ecosystems, the legal and administrative framework, the socio-cultural context and other relevant factors – but more about this on a later date.

Our roots in small-and family forestry can be found in another concrete outcome of this newfound understanding of the shared passion for forests in the late 1990s: the launch of the International Family Forestry Alliance (IFFA). IFFA became another part of the voice of small- and family forest owners, with the specific objective “to be recognized as an important stakeholder and be consulted by the United Nations and other international processes affecting sustainable forest management”. 

The IFFA was launched on 1 July 2002 – three years after PEFC, in the PEFC offices in Luxembourg. IFFA and PEFC – two organisation grown out of small and family forest owners’ passion for forest.


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