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Essay on National and International Forest Policy

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I am more in favor of FC rather than against it

Forest is an important feature of our planet which are providing a renewable source of energy, helping mitigate climate change, and is home to many terrestrial species. In order to maintain all of these features, sustainable forest management is a key factor. Increased concern among environmental NGOs and other stakeholders over global forest degradation, following irresponsible industrial logging and the failure of governments to tackle the problem, caused the need for forest certification schemes (Auld et al., 2008).

The creation of private or non-state forest certification was started by the environmental movement after the lack of success during the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio in 1992. Fear of the degradation of the world’s forests gave an incitement to create a responsible use of the world’s forests. The Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC) was founded in Toronto, Canada in 1994 and introduced to Sweden in 1997 (Auld et al., 2008).

The FSC is a certification program that works by laying down a series of standards to guide forest companies toward sustainable management. The main ideas were to promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management. The monitoring is being made by independent third-party auditors. The certification scheme is based on 10 principles and 56 criteria. Some of the principles are that the social and economic well-being of workers shall be maintained or enhanced, and that ecosystem services and environmental values shall be maintained by the organization. FSC claims to have the highest environmental consideration within forestry with more than 800 members around the world (FSC Worldwide, 2019). Producers who meet environmental standards can then label their products in the marketplace, allowing them to potentially achieve greater market access and receive higher prices for their products (Villalobos et al., 2018).

Many forest producers objected to the setup and design of FSC since social- and environmental interests might outvote economic interests, due to the fact that the World Wild Fund (WWF) and NGOs were key players in its creation. European forest owners' associations joined together to form what would eventually become the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), in order to facilitate the mutual recognition of national schemes and to provide them a common ecolabel (Auld et al., 2008).

It may seem that certification most closely fits within the category of information-based environmental governance. The certification attempts to steer the behavior of consumers through the provision of information to support environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable forest management. It encourages consumers to choose products with an eco-label or certification. There are also other types of governance linked to certification such as incentives (carrots) and institutions (sticks). The promise of wider market access and price premiums for certified goods could work as an incentive for certification for producers and other value chain actors. Institutions (sticks) play a vital role in the development of certification programs. Standard-setters like FSC and PEFC revise their standard in line with well-institutionalized ‘best practices set out by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), the ISEAL Alliance, and other meta-governance organizations (van der Ven & Cashore, 2018).

Forest certification has generated vast attention in forestry as a means to address deforestation and forest degradation by promoting improved environmental and social outcomes in forest management criteria. Thereby, the global area of certified forests has grown significantly and reached approximately 438 million ha in 2014. The majority of the certified area were in temperate and boreal climatic domains (Villalobos et al., 2018). Most certified forests are not located in tropical countries for which concern about unsustainable timber harvesting practices is greatest (Klingberg, 2002).

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The legitimacy of FSC is questioned both globally and nationally. As a private-led market instrument, it does not have the democratic instruments introduced by elected governments. Forest companies and forest owners usually participate in FSC due to pressure from the supply chain and/or from some stakeholder groups, such as NGOs, local communities, or the state (Niedzialkowski & Shkaruba, 2018).

Initially, only products with 100 % FSC content had access to the label but the rules have since been changed and gradually reduced the percent thresholds, introducing new restrictions delineating acceptable non-FSC content (Auld et al., 2008). Even if this lower the demands for FSC certification, a positive outcome could be that more companies are able to achieve the demands for certification. The question is if quantity or quality leads to more beneficial social, ecological and economical outcomes from the certification.

Forest-rich developing countries argue that certification would work as a trade barrier for their timber. Certification schemes are founded by developed countries to reduce forest degradation in the southern hemisphere. The guidelines could be difficult to obtain in developing countries with limited financial resources. Thus, the certification schemes put a lot of pressure on producers of timber in developing countries. It seems a bit unfair that developed countries try to lecture developing countries on how they should manage their forest, considering the previous deforestation and forest degradation during the industrial era.

One can argue that forest certification schemes can be questioned since they do not solve the deforestation and forest degradation in the tropical forest. It mainly focuses on sustainable forest management in temperate- and boreal climate domains in the northern hemisphere. It is a way for producers of forest products in developed countries to labor their products. On the other hand, it is better than nothing. Deforestation and forest degradation is a global issue that has not yet been solved by international agreements and treaties during several climate meetings. Forest certification schemes have put an effort into obtaining sustainable forest management globally. Many members have joined the organization and the area of certified forests is increasing. Even if improvements need to be made, certified forests are better for the environment than conventionally logged ones.

In Sweden, the main part of the forest owners is certified by FSC and PEFC. The certification scheme puts more pressure on forest management than the Swedish Forestry Act. Through the certification scheme, the forest owners believe to be sustainable in their forest management. Criticism towards the certification schemes in Sweden is that they may not be enough to avoid accelerated losses of the old-growth forest and intensive timber production which have serious consequences for biodiversity conservation due to loss of habitats. Villalobos et al. (2018) claim that certification has not halted forest degradation since it has not improved any of the environmental outcomes.

Improvements could be that producers, value chain actors, standard setters, and scholars should focus on collecting and sharing better data on existing indicators of forest certification impacts. This includes measures such as aggregate deforestation, soil erosion, wages, and social conditions in the working force. Another issue is the monitoring of certified forests in developing countries. Especially illegal logging can be very hard to trace in the supply chain.

Forest certification is a suitable option to solve a problem that international agreements could not achieve. It has led to a decrease in forest degradation in boreal- and temperate forests to some extent. However, the main issue of deforestation and degradation of tropical- and subtropical forests have not been solved by FSC and PEFC. Finally, certified forests are better for the environment than conventionally logged ones. Therefore forest certification is beneficial to achieve more sustainable forest management globally.


  1. Auld, Graeme, Gulbrandsen, Lars H., and McDermott, Constance L. “Certification Schemes and the Impacts on Forests and Forestry.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 33 (2008): 187–211. Web.
  2. Klingberg, Tage. ”A European View of Forest Issues for Consideration.” Högskolan i Gävle (2002): Working Paper no 18. Editor: Research and Development Committee
  3. Niedziałkowski, Krzysztof, and Shkaruba, Anton. “Governance and Legitimacy of the Forest Stewardship Council Certification in the National Contexts – A Comparative Study of Belarus and Poland.” Forest Policy and Economics 97 (2018): 180–188. Web.
  4. Villalobos, Laura, Coria, Jessica, and Nordén, Anna. “Has Forest Certification Reduced Forest Degradation in Sweden?” Land Economics 94.2 (2018): 220–238. Web.
  5. van Der Ven, Hamish, and Cashore, Benjamin. “Forest Certification: The Challenge of Measuring Impacts.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 32 (2018): 104–111. Web.
  6. FSC Worldwide. “FSC Principles & Criteria – Defining best practice in global forest management. (2019): Forest Stewardship Council ( [2019-02-22]
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