What is Certification?
Forest Certification is a process that leads to the issuing of a certificate by an independent party, which verifies that an area of forest is managed to a defined standard. Like the Bord Bia symbol on produce, forest certification was intended as a seal of approval, a means of notifying consumers that a wood or paper product comes from forests managed in accordance with strict environmental and social standards.
There is an increased demand for certified timber, largely driven by consumer interest in eco-labelled wood products. In response to the growing market for certified timber, many forest owners need to consider forest certification to maintain and expand market access.
Forest management certification verifies that the environmental, social, and economic aspects of management are considered in a balanced way. Certification takes place by the independent assessment that the quality of the management practised by the forest owner complies with a specified standard. An independent auditor issues a certificate to verify that the timber is from a responsibly managed forest.
In Europe two schemes dominate: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). In Ireland, only the FSC scheme is currently operating, with Coillte holding a FSC certificate for its forest estate. The PEFC scheme has yet to be introduced but is expected later this year.
The exact process to obtain forest management certification varies depending on the scheme. The general process involves initial discussions with the certifying body, a pre-assessment to determine additional management requirements, field inspection and verification of certification subject to satisfying the national forest management standard. Once certification is granted there are regular inspections and audits.