Forest certification programmes are coming to the fore as an effective way to secure action on multiple forest-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) and targets.
Forest certification stands out as an effective tool for achieving sustainable forest management mainly because it is based on coherent sets of requirements agreed to by all stakeholders.
It has made a difference because it is connected to labeling schemes for products, and processing industry and consumers have encouraged forest managers to apply certification schemes.
A year after the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted, implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) it introduced has gained momentum. Governments, financial institutions, businesses and civil society are all increasingly adapting their policies to take the Goals into account. This is great news as the SDGs provide for an effective and comprehensive framework to achieve global sustainability across the environmental, social and economic spectrums.
In this vein, forest certification programmes are coming to the fore as an effective way to secure action on multiple forest-related Goals and targets. The importance of halting deforestation and forest degradation, and practicing sustainable forest management (SFM) are anchored in SDG 15 on Life on Land. They also link to many other Goals, including those addressing climate change and its impacts (SDG 13 on Climate Action); biodiversity protection (SDG 15); freshwater supplies (SDG 6 on Freshwater and Sanitation); the provision of raw materials for a ‘low ecological footprint’ economy (SDG 12 on Sustainable Production and Consumption); and the protection and improvement of the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people – an ideal around which all the Goals revolve. In a recent publication, FSC presented 35 targets under 11 SDGs to which its forest certification standards and procedures contribute (FSC, 2016).
A Brief History of Forest Certification and Its Benefits
Forest certification was first introduced at a global scale in 1994 by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Since then, the FSC logo, which indicates which timber, paper and wood based products are sustainably produced, has become a visible tool used by consumers to make educated choices. The logo is a guarantee that the right responsible practices have been put in place (Karmann e.a. 2016).
Forest certification addresses forest managers, individually or in groups with a set of environmental, social and environmental requirements for forest management. Compliance with all relevant laws is the starting point, but it is complemented with a range of additional requirements, related to biodiversity, water and soils, non-conversion, respect for customary rights of indigenous and local forest peoples, safe working conditions, permanent stakeholder engagement, efficient methods, etc. It is limiting pesticides use, and preventing GMO use. From this year, FSC national standards are being revised or developed on the basis of International Generic Indicators that underpin FSC’s Principles and Criteria for Forest Stewardship. Besides the issues already mentioned, there is specific attention for gender equality issues, carbon stock, ecosystem services, living wages and free-and-prior-informed-consent (FSC 2015).
FSC is unique also for its structured three chamber governance (environmental, social and economic), its complaints procedures and a robust system of third party verification by Certification Bodies accredited by a global, specialized institution (Accreditation Services International).
Forest certification stands out as an effective tool for achieving SFM mainly because it is based on coherent sets of requirements agreed to by all stakeholders. It has made a difference because it is connected to labeling schemes for products, and processing industry and consumers have encouraged forest managers to apply certification schemes. UNECE-FAO estimates that in 2016 some 28.8% of industrial wood harvested worldwide comes from certified forests, a figure that shows the extent to which this production and consumption approach has taken off globally (FAO/UNECE, 2016).
UNECE-FAO estimates that in 2016 some 28.8% of industrial wood harvested worldwide comes from certified forests, a figure that shows the extent to which this production and consumption approach has taken off globally (FAO/UNECE, 2016).
Several very large consumer oriented companies have a 100% FSC-sourcing objective for forest material and some have already achieved it. LEGO and The Body Shop have achieved that for their packaging materials. Large beverage carton producers Tetrapak, SIG Combiblock, Elopak have achieved this target as well (see Proforest, 2016)]. IKEA, the largest wood user in the world, has set this objective for 2020. Local and national authorities in countries around the world require certified products in their purchasing practices and/or construction materials (Duncan Brack, 2014). Citizens increasingly select on the basis of this and other labels to consume responsibly.
Establishing Forest Certification as an SDG Indicator
The indicators for global reporting on the SDG Target 15.2 (By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally) have not yet been finalized. But, forest certification has been proposed by FAO as one of the sub-indicators, and it is important that the UN Statistical Commission approves that. Certification is the only tool to mobilize processing industries, public procurers and consumers to promote sustainable forest management through their purchasing choices, and it will contribute to a number of SDGs. An important asset of forest certification as an indicator is also that it clearly brings in the social dimension of sustainable forest management (Cerutti, 2016, Hodgdon 2016, Meidinger, 2003).
FSC has been active in the discussion on the SDG indicator for SFM, and is pleased that in this concrete way it can contribute to the 2030 Agenda.
While forest certification is not the only way to contribute to the forest related SDGs, it is the most reliable tool to date of ensuring that the right mechanisms are put in place. The stakes are high and the work needed to achieve our goals is great, but the benefits for future generations are well worth the effort.
Cerutti P.O., Lescuyer, G., Tsanga, R., Kassa, S.N., Mapangou, P.R., Mendoula, E.E., Missamba-Lola, A.P., Nasi, R., Eckebil, P.P.T., and Yembe, R.Y. (2014) Social Impacts of the Forest Stewardship Council Certification: An Assessment in the Congo Basin. Occasional Paper 103. Center for International Forestry Research, Bogor. (Also available at: http://www.cifor.org/publications/pdf_files/OccPapers/OP-103.pdf, accessed 1 August 2016)
Duncan Brack (2014) Promoting Legal and Sustainable Timber: Using Public Procurement Policy. See: https://www.chathamhouse.org/publication/promoting-legal-and-sustainable-timber-using-public-procurement-policy
FAO/UNECE (2016) Forest Products, Annual Market Review 2015-2016.
FSC (2015) International Generic Indicators, FSC-STD-60-004 V1-0 EN. Forest Stewardship Council, Bonn. (Also available at: https://ca.fsc.org/preview.fsc-std-60-004-international-generic-indicators.a-1011.pdf, accessed 16 August 2016).
FSC (2016) FSC: A tool to implement the sustainable development goals (Also available at: https://ic.fsc.org/en/web-page-/sdgs)
Gulbrandsen, L.H. (2008) Accountability arrangements in non-state standards organizations: instrumental design and imitation. Organization 15: 563-583.
Hodgdon, B.D., Hughwell, D., Hugo Ramos, V., and McNab, R.B. (2015) Deforestation Trends in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala. Rainforest Alliance, New York.
Karmann, M., Mietinnen, P., and Hontelez, J. (2016) Forest Stewardship Council indicators: development by multi-stakeholder process assures consistency and diversity. Policy Matters 21(17). In press.
Krummenacher, H. (2013) Final Report: Assisting Danzer and Siforco in Meeting Their Obligations Towards the Communities of Bumba. swisspeace, Bern. (Also available at: https://ic.fsc.org/preview.swisspeace-final-report-bumba-communities-eng.a-3554.pdf, accessed 1 August 2016).
Meidinger, Errol (2003) Forest Certification as Environmental Law Making. In Meidinger, E., C. Elliott, and G. Oesten (eds.), Social and political dimensions of forest certification. Remagen-Oberwinter, Germany: Dr. Kessel.
Proforest (2016) ACE converters self-commitment on third-party verified traceability systems for wood fibres, 9th Annual Report, 15 September 2016.