for a living planet


The GFTN Guide to Legal and Responsible Sourcing

High Conservation Value Forests (HCVFs)

HCVFs may be defined as one or more of the following:

  • Forest areas characterized by globally, regionally, or nationally significant concentrations of biodiversity values, such as endemism, endangered species or refugia.
  • Forest areas containing globally, regionally or nationally significant large-landscape-level forests, contained within or containing the forest management unit, in which viable populations of most, if not all, naturally occurring species exist in natural patterns of distribution or abundance.
  • Forest areas that are in or that contain rare, threatened or endangered ecosystems.
  • Forest areas that provide basic services of nature, such as watershed protection or erosion control, in critical situations.
  • Forest areas fundamental to meeting the basic needs, such as subsistence of health needs, of local communities.
  • Forest areas critical to the traditional cultural identity of the local communities. Such areas may, for example, be areas of cultural, ecological, economic or religious significance, as identified in cooperation with the local communities.

Although in many cases it is not illegal to source forest products from an HCVF, in the context of responsible purchasing, such sourcing should be discouraged. Exceptions include where:

  • The forest is certified under a credible certification system, or the forest is in progress to certification (e.g., where the forest manager is a participant in WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network).
  • The forest manager can demonstrate that the forest and/or surrounding landscape is managed to ensure those values are maintained and that any logging or clearing within the forest can be justified on grounds of net social and environmental gain.

There is no definitive list of HCVFs, and it is accepted that it is difficult for purchasing organizations to assess whether or not forest products originate in such forests.

The HCV Resource Network has been established by a group of organisations who use the HCV approach, including environmental and social NGOs, international development agencies, timber and forest product certifiers, suppliers and buyers and forest managers. The Network aims to encourage collaboration, provide information and support on the evolving usage of HCV and ensure that a consistent approach to HCV is understood and applied throughout the world.

For practical purposes, purchasing organizations are advised to discuss the latest information regarding HCVFs with WWF and other environmental organizations working in this field. One approach would be to highlight key areas and regions in which it would be inappropriate to harvest forest products. A more positive approach, generally encouraged by WWF, would be to engage with the producer to assess the high conservation values demonstrated within a forest area and to manage the forest appropriately within the context of credible forest certification.

A developing resource for companies is the FSC Global Forestry Risk Registry. The Registry is a free tool providing information about the risk of sourcing controversial wood and other forest products from over 150 countries. The tool is currently under development by NEPCon, in cooperation with the FSC and the Rainforest Alliance. It is targeted towards companies wishing to conduct due diligence on the risks of sourcing raw material from forests and forest products operations in various countries.  

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