Certification worth a second EC forest strategy look

The EC has committed a “serious oversight” in its new Forest Strategy by overlooking the potential contribution environmental certification schemes can make toward development of a rounded environmentally and commercially sound forestry sector, writes Forest Stewardship Council Managing Director Kim Carstensen 

‘While the European Commission’s latest European Union (EU) Forest Strategy is a vital tool to protect Europe’s forests, it has overlooked the achievements and powerful potential of credible forest certification schemes, such as that of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

I believe this is a serious oversight on the part of the Commission, particularly when more than half of the EU’s forest cover is now certified by private certification schemes. In fact an estimated 55–65 % of total forest area in the EU is now certified, with more than 20% – or 31 million hectares – of the total currently covered by the FSC scheme.

55-65% of EU forest now certified

Besides the positive impact that certification schemes have on forest management, they also facilitate industry, buyers and sellers to choose responsibly sourced wood or wood-based products through their chain of custody and labeling practices. This is evidenced clearly by the fact that nearly 13,000 EU-based companies now process and sell FSC wood.

Across the rest of the world, certification schemes are also proving to be increasingly successful in motivating industry, public procurers and consumers to support sustainable forest management with their purchasing power. Global production of certified roundwood has increased and in Europe more than 70% of all pulp used in paper and board production comes from certified forests.

To be sure, the new EU Forest Strategy does highlight the importance of forests for the region’s economy, employment and environment. It sets important guiding principles for forests and for forests goods and services, including sustainable forest management, forest protection, resource efficiency and global responsibility.

However, I encourage the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to evaluate the impacts of the different certification schemes active in the EU, and globally, in ensuring sustainable forest management in practice, and to recognize those that perform sufficiently.

13,000 EU companies process and sell FSC wood

The Commission and member states should promote increased use of transparent and effective forest management and chain of custody certification systems, governed through the balanced participation of social, economic and environmental stakeholders, within and beyond the EU. They should also champion group certification as a tool to overcome the constraints of fragmented forest ownership in many countries.

Although certification schemes have proven to be instrumental in other EU policies such as the EU Timber Regulation, EU Eco-labeling and Green Public Procurement, the Forest Strategy has overlooked their potential as a tool for achieving sustainable forest management.”

The EU Forest Strategy

EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Daclan Ciolos said that the new EU Forest Strategy, published last September, aimed to balance the value of forests as  “key ecosystems and a source of wealth and jobs”.

Strategy goals include:

  • Assisting forest practice technological and scientific knowledge transfer and  development of higher added-value products.
  • Ensuring EU forest management remains multifunctional.  
  • Improving coordination in sustainable forest management [policy].
  • Creating a European Forest Bureau Network to harmonise National Forest Inventory data.