Since the early 1990s, the concept of forest certification has become the subject of acute interest among nature conservation groups and forestry businesses alike. Several environmental and social organizations view this certification as an effective means to improve forestry practices in accordance with sustainable, integrated forest management approaches. Canada is a world leader in this area.
Situation of Canadian certification in the world in 2010
In Quebec, this trend has developed through the involvement of sector businesses wishing to practice sustainable and socially responsible forestry. It has also arisen in response to market imperatives, thus prompting companies to develop an environmental management system (EMS). In opting for one of the three existing certification standards, companies have had to significantly adapt their working methods to meet the high certification standards from a perspective of continuous improvement of forestry practices. The documentation of working procedures and the consultation of stakeholder groups are some of the recurrent steps related to certification.
The primary aim of forest certification is to make an impartial and voluntary assessment of sustainable forest management practices. Also, forestry companies have their processes certified on a voluntary basis with a view to improving continuous forestry practices. The various certification standards concern, especially, the main accepted criteria of sustainable development in relation to the social, environmental and economic dimensions, including:
For each of these dimensions, the certification standards set high performance levels to be achieved, in excess of what is required under regulations. Even though forest certification is not mandatory, companies use it to demonstrate their commitment to the principles of sustainable forest management, thus maintaining access to certain markets that demand certification.
The norms set by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) are the result of a concerted initiative among stakeholders concerned with sustainable forest management in Canada. Across the country, the provinces have adopted stringent laws and policies in the area of sustainable forest management. This certification system is essentially based on sustainable development criteria identified by the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. Regional application of the CSA norms has brought additional criteria in terms of values, objectives, indicators and targets to be met. With a view to continuously improving performance in forest management and integrating the concerns of local stakeholders, certified organizations have organized other participatory sessions for members of the public concerned about their planning practices. Third-party evaluations also form part of the requirements of the standards.
Adapted from the Website: www.csa.ca/cm/ca/en/home
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was created by a representative group and includes various skills (environmental, social, lumber industry and forest sector groups). The FSC is a non-profit, non-governmental organization. It is an international organization that accredits certification bodies and supports national or regional standards based on 10 principles and 56 criteria that determine what constitutes sound forest management. The FSC is particularly focused on social aspects and the participation of local communities. The standards are developed by interested groups and are performance based. Above all, the FSC plays three important roles:
Adapted from the Website: www.fsc.org/certification.html
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification system derives from a number of American corporations that own large areas of forest (American Forest & Paper Association). SFI standards are dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management and a responsible supply of fibre. It is administered by an independent council representing the industry, giving it considerable credibility. The SFI program is a set of standards based on the management of industrial performance in harmony with the concepts of sustainable forest management (water, biodiversity, wildlife habitats, etc.) A number of Canadian companies subscribe to the IFC program due to the recognition it receives in the U.S. market.
Adapted from the Website: www.sfiprogram.org/index.php
Certification programs offer an objective guarantee of responsible practices in sustainable forest management, while guiding consumers in selecting socially acceptable products. Verification audits carried out by an independent third party offer added value to consumers wishing to favour products derived from well-managed forests.
Balance sheet and importance of certification in Quebec’s publicly-owned lands
Certification situation in Quebec in 2010
Mapping of certification in Quebec as per new forest regime in 2013
Certified forest areas have been growing annually in Quebec, as they have worldwide. The positions adopted by society on various environmental and social issues have prompted the development of supply and purchase policies centring on timber certification.
Given the forest industry’s commitment to forest certification, preserving access to timber from “certified” areas is a major issue in the changes planned for Quebec’s forest regime in 2013. Thanks to forest certification, many companies have developed or maintained market share.
In the QFIC’s view, full certification of private and public land is a realistic objective that positions Quebec’s forest industry as an undisputed leader in responsible forestry, while also serving to project an image of progressive forestry. In holding the distinction of being 100% certified, Quebec products can help position Quebec as a benchmark for certification, thus establishing a “Quebec 100% certified” seal of excellence.