Forest certification is widely seen as the most important initiative of the last decade to promote better forest management. Responsible forest management is a key component of WWF’s vision for a future in which people live in harmony with nature.
Forest products are renewable, which is an advantage compared to many other natural resources. So the sustainable use of renewable forest products can help provide forest dependent people with shelter, fuel, medicine and other services, while providing essential habits for plants and animals and well as a safeguard against climate change.
WWF understands the threats facing forests today, but trying to prohibit the use of forest resources isn’t a viable solution.
Responsible forest management is an important solution and a credible system of certification can ensure the sustainable management of these vital resources. However, certification is not a universal remedy against the world’s forest crises - it cannot replace scientifically sound regulations and legislation. Also, forest certification has yet to provide much of a stimulant to spread locally controlled forest management as its spread is limited because the high costs involve outweigh the tangible benefits.
What certification system can you trust?
Today there are a plethora of forest certification schemes. Certification will only ensure responsible forest management if the system has comprehensive management standards, rigorous control mechanisms and broad involvement of economic, environmental and social stakeholders. To be credible, schemes should have strong verification systems. A scheme largely based on legal rules, procedures and enforcement, may be valid in countries with strong and functioning law enforcement, but could potentially be damaging in countries where this is not the case.
WWF considers the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to be the most robust certification system to ensure environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable management of forests. WWF therefore recommends the FSC system to consumers, forest managers, policymakers and businesses.
WWF Certification Assessment Tool (CAT)
WWF has developed the Certification Assessment Tool (CAT) to assess which certification schemes are best equipped to achieve conservation goals and objectives: i.e. which certification schemes are likely to deliver the best social and environmental impact at scale. The list of criteria included in CAT is a list based on WWF requirements and ambitions.
The CAT evaluates the requirements (Principles & Criteria) of a standard. The CAT also evaluates the rules and procedures that regulate how the standard is implemented, assessed and governed. It includes standard development, certification, accreditation, verificationand grievance procedures, chain of custody and labelling issues, together with a transparent governance system that includes balanced multi-stakeholder participation.
The CAT is a living document and will be updated regularly to address upcoming issues and fairly reflect progress made by schemes to deliver better outcomes.
for earlier CAT assessments of the major forest certification schemes including FSC, PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), and the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS). WWF recently published the CAT Gabon
assessing FSC Congo Basin and PAFC Gabon scheme and standards (CAT downloads see box left).
For more information on CAT, see the fact sheet.