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During the last 15 years, a variety of tools have emerged in an attempt to improve sustainable forest management around the world. One tool currently being used is the certification of forest products. Certification is based upon independent, 3rd party audits of forest product producers against an established set of performance objectives for the management of the forest resources.

Certification programs and systems have grown substantially over the last decade, with approximately 300 million hectares of forests. Temperate and boreal forests currently comprise the majority of certified forest lands, with only a fraction of tropical forest resources currently certified due to challenges in developing country governance and capacity. Forest certification programs include: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the Green Tag Forestry Program (Green Tag), the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the American Tree Farm System and the Pan European Forest Certification (PEFC). The US Forest Service recently completed a study with the Pinchot Institute evaluating the applicability of the SFI and FSC certification systems to federal National Forest System lands.

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The increase in certified forest land is a result both of market competition and public interest around the world. Wood and paper products retailers, wholesalers, builders, do-it-yourself companies and environmental groups continue to make market decisions for certified wood products, including setting procurement targets. Efforts are aimed at both educating consumers and increasing the supply of certified wood from producers in developing and developed countries.

Certification of forest products parallels product certification efforts in other market sectors. As various certification systems have competed in the international market place, they have evolved to better meet consumer demands for information, as well as facilitate a broader array of participation from timber producers. For example, requirements for “chain of custody” tracking and exploration of “step-wise” or “phased” approaches have evolved in different ways for different systems to meet differing producer and consumer demands.

In addition, users of certification as a policy and management tool in the forest sector continue to explore its application beyond the improvement of forest management practices. For example, in order to increase compliance with national governance standards in the forest sector and legal participation in international trade, Indonesia has utilized independent 3rd party certification as a tool to assist government regulators in making determinations for legality of exports, such as CITES permit issuance. Forest product certification systems are also being used in numerous procurement policies, such as verification of legality, both by private companies as well as by some governments.

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Background and Resource Sites
The following sites provide comprehensive overviews of global certification and related systems:

The potential supply of certified wood products on a global level is impacted by the development of frameworks for mutual recognition of certification systems under specific criteria and standards. Two significant efforts in the area of mutual recognition are:

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Practitioner's Tips and Case Studies

  • METAFORE, formerly the Certified Forest Products Council (CFPC), information on certified wood products and markets in the U.S. and the rest of North America, educational tools on certification and resources on facilitating the purchase and sale of certified wood products.
  • Forest Certification in the North American Context

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