PEFC’s story, the early years

As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, over the next few months we’re going to be taking a look at our history. Today it is our early years.

PEFC’s story, the early years

16 July 2019 20th anniversary

The creation of PEFC in June 1999 was a turning point for small-forest owners in Europe. It marked the start of an international forest certification system that put their needs first, enabling them to achieve certification and access demanding markets. But it wasn’t long before forest owners outside Europe could also benefit…  

As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, over the next few months we’re going to be taking a look at our history. Today it is our early years.

After the establishment of PEFC in June 1999, we needed an office and to decide which country we would be based in. Luxembourg was chosen, and within a year, the PEFC Secretariat office was up and running and the small team had got to work. In order to communicate to the PEFC members and the wider forestry sector, the first PEFC newsletter was released in March 2000 – take a look! And not to forget, back then we were called the Pan European Forest Certification (PEFC) Council.

PEFC General Assembly, Luxembourg, 2000

An important milestone came in May 2000 as Finland, Sweden and Norway became the very first countries to achieve PEFC endorsement of their national forest certification systems. This meant forest owners, large and small, could gain PEFC certification of their sustainable forest management practices. Combined, 18 million hectares of forest area were PEFC certified (and now we’re at over 300 million!).

Following in the footsteps of forest management was PEFC Chain of Custody certification, the vital link between the forest and consumer. The development of the rules for the verification of chain of custody of wood was launched in Segovia, Spain, in March 1999. The PEFC General Assembly unanimously adopted the rules in February 2000, laying the way for PEFC-certified products on the marketplace.

In 2001, we incorporated the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions into our guidelines on standard setting. These guidelines set the requirements for how countries must develop their national forest management standard. This change put labour rights into the heart of our standards, something that continues to be important to us now and in future. Take a look at our latest Sustainable Forest Management benchmark standard, in which we have further expanded the social requirements. 

A significant development came early in 2002, as we launched our first online interactive database. Through a new website, customers now had easy access to information about the origins of timber carrying the PEFC logo. Interested in seeing how things have changed compared to our current Find Certified database? We’ve found the original instructions from 2002!

It was only two years since our launch, but by 2001, we already had a member outside Europe: Canada. This was followed swiftly by Australia, Brazil, Chile and Malaysia, all joining the alliance in 2002. Clearly, we were no longer European, so we needed to change our name. In 2003, we became the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. 

Stay tuned to learn about more milestones in PEFC’s history!


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Thorsten Arndt

Head of Advocacy

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