Certification can be an efficient instrument for improving legal compliance in the forest sector. Forest certification is a voluntary, market-driven mechanism, which provides an independent third-party assurance that forest products have been produced according to a set of pre-agreed standards. Some certification schemes are operational throughout the world, including the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Scheme (PEFC). Others are national in scope, such as the Canadian Standards Association's Sustainable Forest Management Standard (CSA) and the American Forest and Paper Association's Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI).
Most of these include clauses of law compliance in their standard and consider legality and transparency as one of the pillars of good forest management. Although governments have no direct role in the certification process, several governments have developed purchasing policies that promote the use of certified products. A recent example is the Government of the United Kingdom's November 2004 declaration, which recognizes FSC certification as a guarantee of legality and sustainability. Certification relieves governments of the burden of controlling law compliance as monitoring is conducted by independent third parties.
Forest certification ensures that a forestry operation meets specified standards. Forest operations are evaluated according to previously defined environmental, social and economic standards and certified as complying with these standards by a qualified independent auditor. Wood products from these forests may then be labelled so that consumers can identify products from well-managed sources.
Some schemes are self-policed, while others rely on independent, external audits. They may only certify the forest management, while others include chain of custody tracking and certify the products. Some schemes involve all interested parties in the standard setting process and allow public access to information on past or planned forest management activities.
The two schemes of direct relevance to developing and transition countries, where illegal logging and illegal timber trade are significant problems, are the FSC and the PEFC.
The FSC scheme includes systems for independent auditing and chain of custody control. Legality at the forest management level is ensured by compliance with the FSC principles and criteria (see Box). Tracing and tracking forest products is provided by chain of custody certification.
The PEFC is a mutual recognition programme of national initiatives, and therefore its rules and standards change from country to country (Peter, 2003). The PEFC operational guidelines include references to law compliance, such as "legal, customary and traditional rights related to the forest land should be clarified, recognized and respected". The basis for certification includes a provision that "national laws, regulations, programmes and policies shall be respected in forest management and certification. Certification schemes may not contradict legislation." The scheme integrates prescriptions for the respect of international agreements and conventions.
The need for more specific guidance on the legality issue is motivating analyses of the possibilities of implementing independent verification systems of legal compliance. In this case, verification of legal compliance would be a first step towards full certification (Ryder and Amariei, 2003). These schemes are still in the process of being designed and tested.
In 2004 FSC launched its "controlled wood" standard (FSC-STD-30-010, version 1-0), as an international model to ensure legal wood supplies (whether certified as "well-managed" or not). The controlled wood standard allows companies to take steps to ensure that illegal and other controversial sources of timber are excluded from the supply chain. A significant number of companies worldwide, both certified and non-certified, are now working to implement the new standard. The standards provide a simple way for purchasers to specify wood and wood products that exclude the most controversial aspects of forest management from their supply chains. It also allows forest managers operating in situations where full certification may be prohibitive for reasons which are beyond their control - for example, due to lack of clear land tenure - to supply "controlled" wood and gain access to international markets.
Governments can facilitate certification of forest products and thus promote law compliance. For example, the government of Bolivia accepts independently certified forests as complying with the legal prescriptions issued by government. Timber concessionaires have the option of either having government inspectors examining compliance or contracting an independent certification entity to do so. Most prefer an independent certifying body to the more complex procedures of government bureaucracy. The government also benefits, as it does not need to use up scarce talent and resources in securing compliance with the law. This policy has contributed to the spread of certification in Bolivia to some 1.5 million hectares, making the country one of the leaders in the tropical world (Pacheco, 2004).
Certification schemes with chain of custody tracking can help trace the origin of wood and make it more difficult to hide theft and other illegalities. Chain of custody certification allows forest product manufacturers and traders to exclude illegally harvested material in their supply chains. This then allows retailers and other major forest products users (e.g. national and local state procurers) to avoid illegal wood in their own purchasing.
If information on certification follows the wood through the chain of custody, informed consumers can have a positive influence on forest management.
Certification may have more appeal in countries which export a substantial amount to industrialized countries that are more likely to demand products that originate from legal sources. As a tool to fight illegal acts on a global basis, its effect is still limited. However, although only about three percent of the world's forest area is presently certified and most of it is in developed countries, certification is also making visible progress in southern countries such as Bolivia and Brazil. It is expected that the development of new standards and tools such as the recently developed controlled wood standards will increase the impact of certification in the coming years, allowing it to contribute in a more substantial way to ensuring legality in the forest sector.
These principles and associated criteria form the basis for all FSC forest management standards.
Principle 1: Compliance with laws and FSC principles
Principle 2: Tenure and use rights and responsibilities
Principle 3: Indigenous peoples' rights
Principle 4: Community relations and workers' rights
Principle 5: Benefits from the forest
Principle 6: Environmental impact
Principle 7: Management plan
Principle 8: Monitoring and assessment
Principle 9: Maintenance of high conservation value forests
Principle 10: Plantations