Certification complements Canada’s comprehensive and rigorous forest management laws and regulations. It is also embraced by companies as a way of further improving their sustainable forest management practices.
Third-party certification provides assurance that a forest company is operating legally, sustainably and in compliance with world-recognized standards for sustainable forest management.
Forest certification has different benefits for different groups:
- Consumers can consider certification as a factor in their buying decisions.
- Certification can help companies demonstrate that they are responsible forest managers.
- The public can value certification for its role in improving forest practices around the world.
Since it emerged in the 1990s, forest certification has been adopted quickly across Canada. As of December 2012, Canada had 148 million hectares of independently certified forest land—38% of all certified forests in the world.
The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) systems are endorsed by the international umbrella organization Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC).
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has three regional systems: Canada Boreal, British Columbia, and Maritimes. All have been accredited by FSC International.
Canada has almost half of the world’s PEFC-endorsed certifications and almost a third of the world’s FSC certifications.
Although these systems differ from one another, all three are based on standards that reflect the current understanding of what sustainable forest management entails. According to the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers ("Canada: Embracing Third-Party Certification"), all three certification systems in Canada:
- Involve independent third-party audits that assess a forest operation's planning, procedures, systems and performance against predetermined standards
- Require annual surveillance audits and public disclosure of findings through audit reports
- Require involvement with affected Aboriginal Peoples to make sure that their rights are respected
- Offer chain-of-custody assurance
- Reinforce the basics of sound forest management by requiring that laws be obeyed (for example, that harvested areas be promptly reforested, and that no unauthorized or illegal logging occur)
- Go beyond simple timber production by ensuring the conservation of biodiversity
The standards on which forest certification is based are not static, because expectations for what certification should demonstrate are always changing. Certification standards therefore necessarily evolve to keep pace with both new knowledge and emerging concerns about sustainable forest management.
For example, members of the Forest Products Association of Canada have signed a commitment to purchase and use wood from legal sources only, as well as a “traceability commitment” that provides additional assurance that all fibre it uses comes from well-managed and legal sources. In many countries, including some that compete with Canada in the global market, unauthorized and illegal logging has become a serious problem. That is not the case here. Such practices are extremely rare in Canada because of the forest laws, policies, monitoring and strong enforcement put in place by the federal government and its provincial and territorial counterparts.