What is certification?

Forest certification provides a mechanism to promote the sustainable management of our forests and ensures that forest-based products reaching the marketplace have been sourced from sustainably managed forests.

What is certification?

Forest certification is a voluntary, market-based instrument, implemented through two separate but linked processes: sustainable forest management certification and chain of custody certification.

Sustainable forest management certification assures that forests are managed in line with challenging environmental, social and economic requirements.

Chain of custody certification tracks forest-based products from sustainable sources to the final product. It demonstrates that each step of the supply chain is closely monitored through independent auditing to ensure that unsustainable sources are excluded.

Forest management is a long-term process. The results of good practice can often only become apparent after decades.

Why we need certification

Forest certification is crucial in providing evidence of sustainable forest management. It enables forest owners and managers to demonstrate that the practices they apply in the forest today are sustainable and that their forests meet both our needs and those of future generations.

It also acts as an enabler of sustainability, empowering consumers and companies to choose sustainably-sourced products, rewarding responsible forest owners and creating an incentive for uncertified forest owners to obtain certification.

Forest certification increases the value of forests by building consumer trust, and therefore creating additional demand, for forest products. Creating additional value and demand for forest products is one of the best ways to keep forests standing, as it prevents them from being cleared for alternative land uses such as agriculture.

Increasingly, forest certification is a prerequisite for doing business and certified forest materials are requested more and more in procurement policies around the world.

A little history

Forest certification first arose in response to concerns about the preservation of the world’s forests. It developed as a result of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Brazil, which defined ‘sustainable development’ as a common goal of human development.

The preamble of the ‘Forest Principles’ – one of the five outcome documents – stated that “forests are essential to economic development and the maintenance of all forms of life.”

But governments were unable to agree on the specifics of sustainable forest management at the UN level, and so forest certification arose as a process and a mechanism to bring people together to define it.

PEFC was founded in 1999 in response to the specific requirements of small- and family forest owners that had been unable to achieve forest certification through alternative certification systems. 

Since then, we have grown to become the world’s largest forest certification system and the certification system of choice for small-forest owners.

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