WWF assessment of FSC regional Congo Basin and PAFC Gabon certification schemes

Posted on December, 12 2018

WWF has published an analysis using the Certification Assessment Tool (CAT) that assesses the strengths and weaknesses of Pan-African Forest Certification (PAFC) Gabon and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Congo Basin certification scheme and standard.
Certification schemes have an important role to play in forest conservation, by enabling customers to choose products from forests that are managed in an economically, socially and environmentally responsible way.

To be effective, certification schemes need to have operational standards that are strong enough to deliver real positive impacts on the ground. And they need to have a strong governance structure and systems in place to ensure that the standards are applied.

WWF recently commissioned an independent, comparative assessment of both the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) regional standard (FSC-STD-CB-01-2012-EN currently applicable to Forest Managament Units (FMU) in Gabon), and the Pan-African Forest Certification (PAFC) Gabon standard and certification system.

The Certification Assessment Tool (CAT) Version 4 was developed by WWF to assess the credibility of certification systems and their standards for a range of commodities including timber. The assessment was undertaken by Terre Environnement Aménagement (TEREA), an external environmental consultancy company specialized in the environment and sustainable management of natural resources.

The CAT is a formalized methodology to evaluate and compare standards and certification schemes. It assesses standard requirements and a scheme’s governance, rules and procedures. The outcome is a better understanding of a certification scheme’s strengths and weaknesses. WWF uses CAT assessments to help identify areas for improvement so these can be addressed as part of a scheme’s efforts to further refine and strengthen their systems to require and enable good performance on the ground for the commodity production in question.

By highlighting strengths and areas for improvement in different schemes, the CAT enables WWF to monitor continuous improvements of certification schemes and their ability to deliver greater benefits for people and nature.

This CAT presents the results of the assessments of the core elements of both FSC regional Congo Basin  standard and PAFC Gabon scheme and standard against the CAT indicators.

Previous similar assessments have been undertaken of the following schemes and standards: PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), MTCS (Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme) and FSC V4 and V5. More info here. 

FSC regional standard Congo Basin 
Until recently FSC certification was the only responsible forest management scheme in the Congo Basin.  The FSC Principles and Criteria provide an internationally recognized standard for responsible forest management. The standard assessed in this CAT was approved in 2012 by FSC and is applicable within the Congo Basin (CAR, Cameroon, DRC, Gabon and Congo) since 2014. It is based on the version 4 of the FSC international principles and criteria. More info here. 

PAFC Gabon 
PAFC Gabon is a forest management and Chain of Custody certification scheme. It was developed at the beginning of the 2000’s and was endorsed in 2009 by the PEFC. In 2012 the scheme underwent a major revision which was nationally adopted in 2013 and re-endorsed in 2014. The purpose of PAFC standard is to assess the legal, social, environmental and economic aspects of the administration of a managed forest in the Gabonese socio-cultural and economic context.

What does the results of the CAT assessment tell us?
The results of this CAT assessment indicate:

For PAFC Gabon: 
  • Very poor compliance with CAT requirements for certification and accreditation process of the scheme,
  • Good compliance with CAT on the standard setting process and chain-of- custody requirements of the scheme,
  • Good compliance with CAT for the forest management standard regarding “legality, tenure and use rights” and “worker’s rights”, “biodiversity” and “other good practice”,
  • Very poor compliance with CAT requirements on the section “pollution, waste and GHG emissions” due to the absence of climate and GHG emissions requirements in the PAFC forest management standard.
For the FSC regional Congo Basin standard applicable in Gabon:
  • Great compliance with the WWF CAT requirements for the standard setting process of the scheme,
  • Great compliance with CAT on the environmental and forest management component of the standard,
  • Poor compliance with CAT on the section “pollution, waste and GHG emissions”, due to the absence of climate and GHG emissions requirements in the FSC Congo Basin forest management standard.