FSC Forest Certification and Origin

Over the past 20 years, global forest problems have become more prominent: forest area has decreased and forest degradation has intensified. It is widely believed that the root causes of forest problems are policy failures, market failures and inadequate institutions. The international community, governments and non-governmental environmental organizations have expressed great concern and have taken a series of actions:
(1) National policy reform. Some countries have developed and implemented basic policies for the transition to sustainable forest management, addressing the problems of forestry, prioritizing forestry and protecting the environment.

(2) International intergovernmental process. Encourage and promote the sustainable development of forestry at the national level through an international intergovernmental process. The main processes are:

● Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Launched the Tropical Forestry Action Plan and later changed to the broader National Forestry Action Plan, but its influence is getting smaller and smaller.

● International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO): Developed the ITTO Guidelines for Sustainable Management of Tropical Natural Forests (ITTO Process) and adopted the ITTO 2000 target of all internationally traded tropical timber and timber products by the year 2000. It must all come from sustainable tropical forests, but this goal is not achieved on time.

● United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development: The Intergovernmental Working Group on Forests and the Follow-up Intergovernmental Forum on Forests were established; in 2000, the United Nations Economic and Social Council established the United Nations Forum on Forests directly affiliated to it. They provide an international forum for discussing global forestry policy issues.

● Standards and indicator systems for sustainable forest management: 9 processes including the Montreal Process, the Helsinki Process, and the ITTO Process. A total of 150 countries participated in various processes. It identifies publicly acceptable, good forest management standards and indicators.

(3) Activities of non-governmental organizations and other private sectors. International NGOs, especially environmental protection organizations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, have expressed doubts about the effectiveness of these activities in promoting good forest management and have begun to explore new avenues with civil society. For example, in the 1980s, the ban on tropical timber initiated by non-governmental organizations, although not effective and opposed by the United Nations, raised people's awareness of improving forest management. Some private companies have developed their own operating procedures and “self-declared” continuous production labels, although the credibility is poor, but the industrial sector began to pay attention to social and environmental conditions.

Forest certification is precisely the recognition by environmental NGOs and civil society organizations that some countries have made policy mistakes in improving forest management, that international intergovernmental organizations have limited effectiveness in solving forest problems, and that forest products trade cannot prove the origin of their products. As a market mechanism to promote sustainable forest management, it was initiated and gradually developed in the early 1990s. It seeks to link “green consumers” with producers seeking to improve their forest management and expand their market share in order to achieve higher returns through an independent assessment of forest management activities. Traditional methods of promoting sustainable forest management (such as development assistance, soft loans, technical assistance and overseas training) mostly ignore the commercial sector, especially the neglect of international trade in wood products. Worldwide, only 20% of forest products enter the international market, but the direct impact of trade on forests is obvious. It is recognized that trade in forest products based on sustainable forest management can also promote environmental protection. Forest certification is unique in that it is market-based and operates on trade and international markets.

Prior to 1992, NGOs had certification ideas, but no progress was made at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. After the Circulation Conference, they began to vigorously promote this new system. In order to monitor the independence and openness of certification, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was established in 1993 by the NGO. In 1994, the FSC adopted principles and standards and began to authorize certification bodies to conduct forest certification based on this principle and standard. Some countries and regions have also started their own certification process. Since then, forest certification has gradually developed around the world.

Forest certification concept

Forest sustainable management certification is a tool that uses market mechanisms to promote sustainable forest management. It is referred to as forest certification, timber certification or collective certification. Forest certification includes two basic elements, namely forest management certification and chain of custody certification. Forest management certification is based on a set of principles, standards and indicators, according to the prescribed and recognized procedures for the certification of forest management performance, and the chain of custody certification is the production of wood processing enterprises, that is, from log transportation, Processed, distributed, and certified throughout the chain of the final consumer. Forest certification is conducted by an independent third party with the aim of ensuring the fairness and transparency of forest certification. There are many common concepts and terminology for forest certification, mainly as follows:

A process by which a certified third party gives written evidence of a product, process, or service that meets the certification requirements.

Timber certification includes forest management certification and chain of custody certification.

The Chain of Custody consists of a chain of logs, transportation, processing and distribution. Tracking the chain of custody can determine the ultimate source of the product.

The environmental management system achieves environmental management objectives at various stages through the formulation, implementation, and supervision of environmental policies within the framework of environmental management objectives.

Environmental label A description of products and services that meet environmental requirements, including symbols, graphics, product labels, packaging, product licenses, technical bulletins, advertisements, and more.

The forest product label describes the source and source of its raw materials on forest products. The forest product label is based on forest management certification and chain of custody certification, which can be on the product or outside the product.

Authorize a principal to delegate authority to another subject. In forest certification, authorization means that the certification authority grants the authority of forest certification to the certification body, and then the certification body implements certification for forest management units and wood processing enterprises.

Type of forest certification

The power to promote certification is multi-faceted. There are market-driven forest management certifications on a voluntary basis, as well as certification of certain aspects of forest management at the request of the public, as well as laws and regulations. Compulsory certification.

Market-oriented forest management certification means that the company applies to the certification body on a completely voluntary basis and voluntarily and independently authenticates specific forest areas in accordance with improved forest management or sustainable business standards, with the aim of transmitting information to the market. , usually including the labeling of forest products and the certification of the chain of custody.

Certification/identification of specific forest management needs refers to one or more forest management related to forest assets or projects (such as community forestry, cooperative forest management projects, farm forestry) in accordance with recognized series of requirements for environmental protection and socio-economic development. The quality of the aspects is independently certified/identified.

Compulsory certification/certification refers to monitoring compliance with independent compulsory certifications related to forest management and chain of custody rules and regulations. It is a measure to strengthen the implementation of the law to ensure compliance with forest management regulations and control of illegal logging and trade of forest products.

Environmental service certification refers to the independent certification of environmental services (such as carbon deposition, soil and water conservation, erosion control, biodiversity conservation, etc.) provided by specific forest areas in accordance with recognized series of baseline conditions. It is based on markets, regulations or program projects, and its implementation is often linked to certification of sustainable forest management based on performance standards.

Environmental management system certification refers to the independent certification of the environmental management system (ISO14001/14004 standard or similar). It is a measure to establish and demonstrate the operational capacity of forest management units to manage and control the environmental impact of their business activities.

In addition, certification can also be applied to identify whether a country or organization has complied with international agreements (such as the Kyoto Protocol's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions). A certification program may also include several types of certification.

Most certifications are market-oriented, including performance-based (such as FSC systems and pan-European forest certification systems) and management system-based (such as ISO14001/4 standard) certification. We generally discuss this kind of market-oriented voluntary certification system.

Purpose of forest certification

Forest certification has two main purposes:

(1) Improve the forest management level of forest management units and promote the sustainable management of forests;

(2) Stabilize the market share of existing products of the enterprise and create market access conditions for entering new markets.

In addition, forest certification can also achieve the following goals:

Differentiate products;

Commercialization of forest services;

Reduce investment risks;

Promote the participation of all stakeholders;

Obtain financial assistance;

Strengthen the implementation of the law.

Forest certification elements

Forest certification and forest product labeling systems generally include the following basic elements:

Standards for sustainable forest management: Standards are the basis for certification assessments.

Forest management certification (consistency assessment): A formal review of forest management units in an independent manner in accordance with standards.

Chain of Custody Audit: Determine the source of the product by evaluating the documents, the number of sales or purchases of certified products, and periodic inspections of the warehouse and product manufacturing processes.

Labeling of forest products: Based on the certification of forest management and the audit of the chain of custody, companies can apply for labels as a means of transmitting information.

Authorization: Identify the competence, reliability, and independence of the certification body. It complements the certification and labeling process with the aim of increasing the credibility of third-party certification bodies.

Forest certification standard

Standards are the basis for certification, and certification is the evaluation process for standards. There are two standards for forest certification:

(1) Performance standards (performance standards) It stipulates the qualitative and quantitative objectives or indicators of forest management status and management measures to meet certification requirements, such as FSC principles and standards. In terms of application, performance standards have certain limitations, that is, it is impossible to develop detailed standards applicable to global forests, and regional or local standards must be established within the framework of general international standards. There are certain differences in performance standards in different regions, but they are compatible and equal.

(2) The process standards (procedurestandardsorprocessstandards), also known as the environmental management system standards, stipulate the nature of the management system, that is, the implementation of environmental policies using the document management system. In addition to the environmental indicators stipulated by law, such standards do not impose minimum requirements on the performance level of enterprises. Forest management units applying for certification must continuously improve the environmental management system, assume policy obligations, conduct environmental impact assessments according to their own goals and targets, and resolve all identified environmental issues. The ISO14001 standard is an environmental management system standard.

There are obvious differences in the concept between the two standards, but there are certain links in the application, they can also form a set of standards. First, the performance standards system includes many management system factors, and the ISO14001 standard of the environmental management system also clearly states that forest management units must establish environmental performance requirements. The environmental management system is helpful for the forest certification system in the development of many performance standards. Second, both standards include the principle of continuous improvement. In the performance certification system, the management level of forest management units can be continuously improved by regularly raising performance standards. In the management certification system, it requires forest management units to continuously improve their operational level and achieve the objectives of each stage. The current performance standards and process standards are set separately, which facilitates the review and harmonization of assessment results.

Forest certification fee

There are two kinds of fees for forest certification: direct costs, that is, the costs and indirect costs of the certification itself, are the fees paid by the forest management unit in terms of improving management level, adjusting business plans, and training employees. In most cases, the latter is higher than the former.

(1) Direct costs

Direct costs, also known as flat fees, include:

· Forest assessment and audit fees;

· Annual audit fees.

The influencing factors are:

· The feasibility of the certification body's assessment;

· The difficulty and scale of certification implementation;

· The effectiveness and transparency of the forest management unit management system;

· The size of the forest management unit, the complexity of the management structure,

The richness of biodiversity and the diversity of social environment

And the clarity of the activity record.

In general, the certification cost of tropical rain forests is higher than that of temperate forests, and the certification cost of natural forests is higher than that of plantations.

(2) Indirect costs

Indirect costs, also known as variable fees, are related to the quality of the forest management system implemented by the certification unit. A good forest management system does not need to make major adjustments to the existing long-term planning of forest management and forest operation procedures, nor does it have to invest more in training and forest management, thereby reducing the payment for these aspects through certification. cost of.

Certification fees are related to the size of the certified forest. At the same level of operation, forests with smaller scales have higher certification costs than larger forests.

Forest certification benefits

The benefits of forest certification are mainly reflected in three aspects: environmental benefits, social benefits and economic benefits.

(1) Environmental benefits

· Protect biodiversity and its value, water resources, soil, unique and fragile ecosystems and natural landscapes;

· Maintain the ecological function of the forest and the integrity of the ecosystem to promote sustainable forest management;

· Protect endangered species and their habitats.

(2) Social benefits

· Ensure that the rights of all stakeholders are respected and realized.

(3) Economic benefits (especially important for companies involved in certification)

· Ensure long-term supply of wood;

· Improve forest productivity;

· Stabilize forest management rights;

· Strengthen the basic management and environmental management of the enterprise;

· Maintain or increase market share;

· Production of differentiated products;

· Product premium;

· Improve relationships with various stakeholders;

· Strengthen contact with managers and gain priority in forest management;

· Improve staff morale and ability to attract talents;

· Improve the competitiveness and reputation of enterprise products in the international market;

· Get ​​more financial and technical support.

Forest certification procedure

So far, a variety of forest certification systems have emerged around the world. The procedures for certification are not the same under different systems, but the main steps are the same, namely, application, inspection (or audit), decision making and Issue a certificate.

Forest management units must conduct self-assessment before applying for forest certification to prepare for formal certification. The steps are:

The first step: assess the need for forest certification. The forest management unit should confirm whether the unit has the need to carry out certification, that is, the certification will bring benefits to the business operation, such as certification will improve the market competitiveness of the product, the certification revenue will exceed the certification cost and so on.

Step 2: Choose the appropriate certification and certification body. The forest management unit should decide which certification system to choose based on the needs of the consumer or the market for a certain certification.

Step 3: Conduct an internal assessment. Before the formal certification, the forest management unit shall conduct an internal preliminary assessment, including the selection of certification standards, the interpretation of standards under local conditions, and the use of standards to evaluate the business activities of the enterprise to determine the extent to which the unit meets the certification requirements.

Step 4: Improve and improve forest management to achieve good forest management. After an internal assessment, forest management units should improve the deficiencies in forest management, such as setting clear business objectives and adopting practical implementation steps.

After these tasks are completed, the forest management unit can formally apply for certification. In general, forest certification is carried out in accordance with the following flow chart. At each stage, the certification body and the forest operator bear the corresponding responsibilities.

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