Certification Schemes Failing to Protect Tropical Forests

Photo shows a convoy of logging trucks in Gabon, photo: jbdodane, via flickr.com
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Timber certification schemes and corporate sustainability commitments are failing to protect tropical forests, according to new analysis from Global Canopy.

The research, based on Forest 500 data that ranks the most influential producers, processors, manufacturers and retailers involved in deforestation-risk commodities, found that 80% of companies with timber and / or pulp and paper sustainability policies use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) certification to meet sustainability commitments [1].

Yet almost all of the forests certified by these schemes are found in Europe or North America (84%) – and not in tropical countries where most forest loss occurs.

The findings are particularly alarming given that the most recent data on global tree cover loss revealed deforestation rates to be increasing [2].

Global Canopy’s research also highlights that companies relying on certification for sustainability do not need to know the source of the timber or pulp and paper supplies they are buying as neither the FSC or PEFC scheme requires this information.

Only 22% of companies with certification-based commitments have enhanced traceability requirements. Traceability to the mill level at a minimum is recommended to prevent products from being fraudulently labelled as certified. This is especially important in high risk tropical countries with high rates of corruption and illegal logging.

Global Canopy is urging companies that source timber from tropical forest areas to go beyond the requirements of certification schemes and to ensure they know the source of their tropical timber.

Michael Guindon, Project Manager at Global Canopy, said:“A growing number of companies involved in timber and pulp and paper have made commitments to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. But these companies can only achieve that goal if they know the source of their timber. Global tropical deforestation is rising – with serious consequences for the climate – and yet neither certification or traceability are being implemented in the most important countries.”

In 2016, 31 Forest 500 companies assessed for timber and/or pulp and paper had commitments to eliminate deforestation in these supply chains – more than double the number since 2014.

A large proportion of forest products sourced from tropical countries are consumed domestically, yet fewer retailers, manufacturers and processors operating in these regions have sustainability commitments.

Global Canopy is urging companies operating in or sourcing forest products from these regions to put in place sustainable timber policies and to work towards zero-net deforestation.

Companies sourcing timber and pulp and paper from tropical forest counties that currently have sustainability policies must also strengthen their commitments if they are to honour the pledges they have made.



[1] Global Canopy’s Forest 500 identifies and ranks the most influential powerbrokers in the race towards a deforestation-free global economy. These powerbrokers include the most influential producers, processors, manufacturers and retailers within forest risk commodity supply chains. The 2016 Forest 500 assessment included 210 companies using tropical timber in their operations, including those that used high volumes of paper-based packaging.

Companies score points for sourcing FSC and PEFC certified materials, but FSC and PEFC Chain of Custody (CoC) systems only require that certified materials are identified and separated from non-certified materials. To be awarded points for traceability, companies must commit to full traceability to the mill level at a minimum.

To read the full briefing, see: https://globalcanopy.org/publications/achieving-sustainable-timber-supp…

[2] See: http://blog.globalforestwatch.org/data/global-tree-cover-loss-rose-51-p…


Photo credit: jbdodane via flickr.com, creative commons licence