Of Forests, Certification, and Purchasing Power
By Isabelle Des Chênes
We Canadians are proud of our forests, and of the fact that over 40% of the worlds certified forests are concentrated here. Actually, it’s not the forests themselves that are certified, but the practices used when they are harvested and regenerated. Those practices are certified as meeting today’s highest standards of good forest management.
Yet nearly all of Canada’s forests are public forests. The use of them is controlled by the federal and provincial governments who enforce some of the strictest regulations in the world. Why then, has there been such a tremendous, voluntary effort put into certifying the forestry practices used?
The biggest reason is that certification provides consumer confidence.
Buyers of wood and paper products in Canada’s key export markets are increasingly concerned about sustainability issues. This includes illegal logging which is a serious problem in some parts of the world, is a principal cause of global deforestation, and threatens the legitimate forest products industry.
Ninety per cent of the world’s forests, many of them in jurisdictions without effective laws, are not certified. So certification is part of a commitment to provide customers proof of legality and sustainability. It provides independent (and therefore trusted) verification that widely accepted and
evolving environmental, social and economic standards are being followed in the forest.
Furthermore, the process of certification distils the many complex considerations involved in doing a good job of forest management into a seal of approval that customers can understand without doing a lot of study themselves.
The certificate that gets issued means that accredited auditors with the necessary expertise have examined a company’s activities against a plethora of requirements that range from maintaining biodiversity to respecting Aboriginal rights. Customers then only need to concern themselves with one question -‐ Are you certified?
Finally, forest certification can be complemented by product (chain-‐of-‐custody) certification. This confirms that wood or paper products have in fact originated from certified forests and other responsible sources.
Companies can choose to label certified products to let consumers know what they are made of, allowing people to factor the environmental and social attributes of a product into their decision to buy it.
For forest certification there are three, equally credible forest certification programs used in Canada.
These are the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) standards. The global Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) has endorsed CSA and SFI, while the regional FSC standards used in Canada fall under the global FSC program. For product certification, CSA has adopted the PEFC chain-‐of-‐custody standard, while FSC and SFI have their own individual standards.
As an environmentally savvy consumer you are likely already working to consume less, reuse what you can, and recycle what you can’t.
Looking for certified companies who are delivering on these sustainable forest management principles is an easy and effective way to choose responsible wood, pulp and paper products.
And that in turn, will help influence others around the world to do the same.