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Certification and Procurement

Fern’s analysis: Whether to buy certified products is a choice consumers make on a near daily basis as certifications schemes exist for timber products, fish, organic food and many other items.

When it comes to forest products, there are two major certification schemes: the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Products and the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). The PEFC, created by the forestry sector in response to the creation of the FSC, has developed from a ‘rubber stamping’ exercise without any controls, to a genuine certification scheme. Despite these improvements, Fern’s 2001 report Behind the Logo and Fern’s 2005 report Footprints in the Forest found that the PEFC remained less rigorous than the FSC.

For many years Fern was an active supporter and member of the FSC. Its multi-stakeholder process was innovative and set a trend for other initiatives, including FLEGT.  In part thanks to FSC, good forest management is now widely seen as being a balancing act between economic, social and environmental values, rather than just as sustainable yield. This balancing act requires an inclusive, deliberative, multi-stakeholder process to set standards and processes. Lack of effective implementation of its standards, combined with an attempt – later abandoned – to certify forest carbon offsets, was, however, sufficient reason for Fern to hand in its membership in 2011.

Since then Fern’s focus has moved away from certification. Certification still has a clear role in improving forest and land management, but there are real limits to what certification can achieve. The real threats to forests today are climate change and over-consumption of forest and agricultural products, neither of which can be addressed by certification. In some cases, certification is even used as an excuse to not reduce consumption. The EU’s bioenergy policy is a good example - it encourages biofuels as long as they are certified, when it should be incentivising real renewables and dis-incentivising land based bioenergy.  There is a serious risk that future EU policies on bioenergy will make the same mistake for woody biomass

What Fern is doing: Fern is working to ensure that the EU develops and implements coherent policies that reduce the overall EU forest footprint, while increasing the percentage of commodities that are legally and sustainably sourced. Fern calls on the EU to develop a policy to reduce emissions in the forest and land sector by improving management and restoration of existing EU forests.

To learn more about our previous work on certification: see Fern's statement to the Forest Stewardship Council on withdrawing Fern's membership, Fern’s previous statement on FSC and Fern’s report analysing different certification schemes: Behind the Logo, Footprints in the forest and Buying a sustainable future.

Most recent publications

Buying a Sustainable Future, timber procurement policies in the EU

This report analyses the different timber procurement policies of six EU Member States and Japan. The report shows that although there is some variation between the different policies, there are also many similarities. The Netherlands policy is the strongest in terms of inclusion of social issues with the UK policy does not (yet) include; France and Germany just accept certain certification schemes and the Danish policy is not mandatory.

PDF iconEnglish1.18 MB

Forestwatch issue 140

  • Ilisu dam: teetering at the edge
  • Liberia’s dubious timber concessions
  • UK Environmental Audit Committee heeded
  • EU aid: must do better
PDF iconFW 140.pdf176.55 KB
PDF iconBonn II meeting update.pdf131.11 KB

Forest Watch Issue 139

  • New DG for Climate and Energy criticised
  • GPP: Be heard!
  • R-Plans: Indigenous and local communities stand firm
  • Not so fast, M. de Larosière!
  • Commission must sharpen development policy tools
  • Cameroon VPA negotiation concludes
  • Biomass update
PDF iconFW 139.pdf211.67 KB
PDF iconBiomass update.pdf74.63 KB

Regaining credibility and rebuilding support: changes the FSC needs to make

A joint statement by FERN, Greenpeace, Inter-African Forest Industry Association, Precious Woods, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and Tropical Forest Trust, detailing which changes this group the FSC needs to make to regain its credibility.

PDF iconchanges the FSC needs to make.pdf27.33 KB

UK Government decision undermines its own timber policy

A joint press release by FERN, FoE, Greenpeace and WWF stating that the UK Government's timber procurement policy accepts forest destruction as sustainable. The press release is a response to a press release by DEFRA anouncing the UK Government accepts PEFC, SFI, CSA and FSC as proof of sustainable timber production and of MTCC as proof of legal timber production in light of their procurement policy.

Microsoft Office document iconOPEN123.5 KB

Social Criteria in Timber Procurement Policies II

 A legal opinion commissioned by WWF UK on whether EU Governments are allowed under EU law to include social criteria in their procurement policies. The study concludes that this is indeed the case

Microsoft Office document iconOPEN58.5 KB