Why in NEWS?

The certification industry offers a multi-layer audit system that seeks to authenticate the origin, legality, and sustainability of forest-based products.

Why certification requires?

  • With climate change, deforestation has become a critically sensitive issue globally in recent years. Forests absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide that is emitted in various economic activities, keeping a check on global warming. At the Glasgow climate meeting in 2021, more than 100 countries took a pledge to stop, and start reversing, deforestation by 2030.
  • Several countries and corporates, keen to present an environment-friendly image now try to ensure that they avoid consumption of any product that might be the result of deforestation or illegal logging. And Europe and the United States have passed laws that regulate the entry and sale of forest-based products in their markets.
  • This is where the certification industry comes in — offering a multi-layer audit system that seeks to authenticate the origin, legality, and sustainability of forest-based products such as timber, furniture, handicraft, paper and pulp, rubber, and many more. There are two major standards, FSC and PEFC. Both operate in India, but the Government is also working on its own national standards.
  • Stopping deforestation does not mean forests cannot be harvested in a sustainable manner for the products. In fact, periodic harvesting of trees is necessary and healthy for forests. Trees have a life span, beyond which they die and decay.
  • After a certain age, the capacity of trees to absorb carbon dioxide gets saturated. Younger and fresher trees are more efficient at capturing carbon dioxide. The problem arises only when trees are felled indiscriminately, and the cutting of forests outpaces their natural regeneration.


  • The approximately three-decade-old global certification industry began as a way to establish, through independent third-party audits, whether forests were being managed in a sustainable manner. Over the years, a range of certifications have come to be offered for various activities in the forestry sector.
  • There are two major international standards (there are a few other less widely accepted ones as well) for sustainable management of forests and forest-based products. One has been developed by Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC; the other by Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certifications, or PEFC. FSC certification is more popular and in demand, and also more expensive.
  • Organizations like FSC or PEFC are only the developers and owners of standards — like, for example, the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) or Bureau of International Standards (BIS). They are not involved in the evaluation and auditing of the processes being followed by the forest managers or manufacturers or traders of forest-based products. That is the job of certification bodies authorized by FSC or PEFC.
  • The certification bodies often subcontract their work to smaller organizations. PEFC does not insist on the use of its own standards. Instead, like its name suggests, it endorses the ‘national’ standards of any country if they are aligned with its own.
  • Two main types of certification are on offer: forest management (FM) and Chain of Custody (CoC). CoC certification is meant to guarantee the traceability of a forest product like timber throughout the supply chain from origin to market.


FSC forest management certification confirms that the forest is being managed in a way that preserves biological diversity and benefits the lives of local people and workers, while ensuring it sustains economic viability. FSC-certified forests are managed to strict environmental, social and economic standards. There are ten principles that any forest operation must adhere to before it can receive FSC forest management certification. These principles cover a broad range of issues, from maintaining high conservation values to community relations and workers’ rights, as well as monitoring the environmental and social impacts of the forest management.

What is Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certifications

The Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is an independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, founded in 1999, which promotes sustainable managed forests through an independent third party certification. PEFC is the world’s largest forest certification system.

Forest certification in India:

  • The forest certification industry has been operating in India for the last 15 years. Currently, forests in only one state — Uttar Pradesh — are certified. Forty one divisions of the UP Forest Corporation (UPFC) are PEFC-certified, meaning they are being managed according to standards endorsed by PEFC. These standards have been developed by the New  Delhi -based nonprofit Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF).
  • Some other states too obtained certification, but subsequently dropped out. The Bhamragad forest division in Maharashtra was the first to obtain FSC certification for forest management. Later, two divisions in Madhya Pradesh and one in Tripura also obtained FSC certification. UPFC too had FSC certification earlier.
  • However, all of these expired over time. Only UPFC extended its certification — but with PEFC.
  • Many agroforestry projects, such as those run by ITC, and several paper mills too have forest management certification. The forests here are meant for captive use of the industry.
  • There are a large number of CoC certifications, but the dropout rate is 40 per cent. As of now, there are 1,527 valid CoC certifications by FSC, and 1,010 that are suspended, expired, or have been terminated. A total 105 entities have obtained PEFC CoC certification in India so far, 40 of which have expired, or have been suspended or terminated.

India-specific standards:

  • India allows the export of only processed wood, not timber. The timber harvested from Indian forests is not enough to meet the domestic demand for housing, furniture, and other products. The demand for wood in India is 150-170 million cubic meters annually, including 90-100 million cubic meters of raw wood. The rest goes mainly towards meeting the demand for paper and pulp.
  • India’s forests contribute just about five million cubic metres of wood every year. Almost 85 per cent of the demand for wood and wood products is met by trees outside forests (ToF). About 10 per cent is imported worth Rs. 50,000-60,000 crore per year.
  • Since ToF are so important, new certification standards are being developed for their sustainable management. PEFC already has certification for TOF and last year, FSC came up with India-specific standards that included certification for ToF. Environment Minister launched the FSC’s India standards in June 2022.

Source: Indian Express


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