With so much timber on the market that is destructively or illegally logged, it's important to have a certification system that can assess the logging industry's impact in forestry areas on both the environment and the communities who live there.
If developed responsibly, certification schemes can reassure customers that what they are buying is not the result of destructive or illegal logging. But poorly-managed schemes can make the situation worse by endorsing bad forestry practices.
At present there is only one credible certification system, which is run by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC is an international, non-government organisation dedicated to promoting responsible forest management, and they have developed a system of forest certification and product labelling that allows timber merchants and domestic customers alike to identify wood from well-managed forests. The tree-tick logo is the best guarantee that timber has been produced in an environmentally sound and socially responsible manner.
To gain the FSC stamp of approval, loggers and forestry owners must demonstrate that their activities comply with FSC regulations. These require that:
- forests are logged in a responsible manner;
- free and informed consent of the traditional landowners is obtained;
- the rights of forest workers and forest communities are respected;
- endangered species and their habitats are conserved.
Chain of custody
At the heart of the FSC monitoring system is the chain of custody. This means any timber that carries their logo can be traced along the supply chain, from the forest it was felled in right through to the builders' merchant or furniture shop. Documentary evidence is obtained for every stage of the journey providing full traceability, while the FSC logo has become an internationally recognised symbol for high ethical standards.
Several major retailers, including B&Q and Marks and Spencer, are committed to stocking FSC-certified products. Check for the FSC logo on any wood products you buy - if it isn't there, you can't be sure of any environmental claims the manufacturers might make.
Unlike other certification schemes, FSC has successfully brought together social, economic and environmental stakeholders to provide inputs and solutions for complex forest management challenges. You can check here for the latest Greenpeace recommendations to the FSC.
Other certification schemes
There are other timber certification schemes on the go, but none provide adequate assurances of environmental or social safeguards. Usually their certification standards fall short of providing sufficient protection for forest habitats and local communities, and in many cases the forestry industry has a controlling stake in their development.