for a living planet

site

The GFTN Guide to Legal and Responsible Sourcing

8.1 Certified Timber

FSC Certified Timber - The Least-Risk Option

The Least-Risk Option

The simplest way to answer the two questions is to buy timber that has been independently certified as coming from well-managed forests. Practically all forest certification standards require independent verifiers to confirm that the forest ownership, access and management is legal. Auditors will normally not carry out a “legality audit” as these are very specific assessments and can be complex and costly. During certification assessments the auditors will be making sure there is no evidence of significant breaches of the law. Chain-of-custody certificates answer the question, “How did it get here?” If purchasers can buy certified timber, the risk of trading in illegal timber will be managed and greatly reduced. The table below summarizes the various schemes’ ability to verify legality.

Certification Schemes as a Form of Verification of Legal Compliance

Certification Scheme

Checks Legal Right to Harvest and Significant Aspects of Legal Compliance

Achieves Traceability Through a Chain-of-Custody System

Requires Exclusion of Uncertified Material (From Potentially Illegal or Unwanted Sources) 

System for Controlling Uncertified Material (When Percentage Based Claims Are Used)

Value as a Form of Evidence of Legal Compliance

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

Yes

Yes 

Yes

Yes—Controlled Wood Standard

High – No Extra Legality Related Checks Required.

Cerflor (Brazil) 

Yes

Yes

No

No

High For 100% Certified—No Extra Legality-Related Checks Required.

Certfor (Chile) 

Yes

No

Yes

No

Verification Needed for Non-Certified Percentage

Lembaga Ecolabel Indonesia (LEI) 

Yes

No

No

No

Chain–of-Custody  System Required

PEFC* - Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes

 

Yes

Yes

Varies

No

High for 100% Certified—No Extra Legality-Related Checks Required.

Verification Needed for Non-Certified Percentage

Sources: Compiled from UK Central Point of Expertise on Timber Procurement's (CPET) website; Forest Certification Resource Centre—Certification Comparison Matrix (Link no longer available); Reports from the ProForest Field Test of the Questionnaire to Assess the Comprehensiveness of Certification Systems/Schemes.

For other certification information you may go directly to the certification programme’s own websites:

  • American Tree Farm System (ATFS)
  • Canadian Standards Association (CSA)
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
  • Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC)
  • Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)

* Note: Countries using this scheme with national endorsement: Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, France, Latvia, Czech, Switzerland, Belgium, UK, Spain, Denmark, Australia, Italy, Chile, Portugal, Canada, Luxemburg, Slovakia, US, Slovenia, Estonia & Poland

Note: Forest certification schemes and associated chain-of-custody systems constantly evolve in terms of their requirements. This table is believed to be correct at the time of publication. Please check with each certification system for new developments to ensure ongoing accuracy.

Note: No system can give 100 per cent guarantee as proof of legality on its own. All certification systems are implemented by people who on occasion make mistakes or who occasionally seek to mislead. Good certification systems find and fix these errors. Always check the certificate for scope and for validity. Do not assume that because a company has a Chain of Custody certificate that material purchased from this company is automatically certified.

Percentage Claims
All forest management certification schemes examined for preparation of this manual require compliance with relevant forest legislation. Some also provide a relatively high degree of assurance that the material covered by their chain-of-custody system is legal. The situation is made more complex, however, by “percentage claims”.

Percentage claims are permitted when it is accepted that it is impractical to demand that 100 per cent of a product be certified. This is commonly the case for products in which raw wood materials from many forest sources are mixed during manufacturing (for example, paper or plywood). In such cases, the authorities responsible for the governance of the various certification standards acknowledge that some mixing with non-certified material is inevitable. Percentages are normally set, with some material coming from certified sources and the remainder coming from non-audited sources. Credit based systems do not use percentages but, when operated correctly, should ensure that the volume claimed as credit is in no way associated with material that is illegal.

Though many of the certification programmes specify that illegal timber must be excluded from the non-certified percentage. This is verified through auditing against their Controlled Wood Standard. The FSC Controlled Wood Standard seeks to provide a framework by which non-FSC-certified timber (which will be mixed with FSC-certified timber when making percentage-based claims) can be assessed for legality (amongst other criteria). Several certifying bodies (organizations that certify forest management against the standards listed in the table above) have created verification programmes to assess legality alone (i.e. excluding the non-legal aspects of the applicable standard).


<< PreviousNext >>