Certification: The Benchmark for Sound Forest Management | WWF

Certification: The Benchmark for Sound Forest Management

Forest Certification is widely seen as the most important initiative of the last decade to promote better forest management.  

Forest certification has led to greater recognition of the importance of environmentally and socially sound wood products and has engaged producers, consumers and retailers in a positive effort to help clean up the timber industry. It has also strengthened a global debate on the future of forestry.

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In the context of forestry, there are two types of certification:
  • Forest certification: a process that leads to the issuing of a certificate by an independent party, which verifies that an area of forest is managed to a defined standard
  • Chain of Custody certification: a process of tracking wood products from the certified forest to the point of sale to ensure that product originated from a certified forest.

Certification process

There are two elements to the process of obtaining a Forest Certification and a CoC Certification:

  1. Implementing the requirements of the standard in the forest or implementing a robust chain of custody system. See FSC forest and CoC standards.
  2. Undergoing the certification audit or assessment to confirm that the requirements/systems are in place.

Certification Audit Process

  1. Application and proposal
    The first step for all voluntary certification is for the management organization to apply to a certification body, and the certification body prepares a proposal
  2. Pre-assessment or scoping
    The certification body commonly makes a brief preliminary visit to the certification applicant with three main objectives in mind:
    - ensure that the applicant understands the requirements of certification
    - plan for the main assessment, and to
    - identify any major gaps between current management and the level required by the standard
  3. Closing gaps
    Applicants address any gaps between current management and that required for certification until they are confident that their performance is in compliance with the requirements of the standard.
  4. Main assessment
    The main assessment is carried out by an assessment team whose job is to collect objective evidence that demonstrates whether or not the standard is being met. The collection of objective evidence involves a combination of document review, field visits and consultation.
  5. Address any major CARs
    When non-compliances with the standard are found, this normally results in Corrective Action Requests (CARs), which must be addressed by the applicant in order to achieve full compliance with the standard.
  6. Report and Certification Decision
    Following the assessment, the team produces a report setting out the findings and making a certification recommendation. The certification decision is made based on the report by a panel of committee who were not directly involved in the assessment in order to reduce the risk or corruption.
  7. Surveillance/Monitoring
    Ongoing surveillance visits after obtaining certification serve to check ongoing compliance with the standard to ensure that performance does not fall below the required level, and also serve to monitor progress on improvements that were required through corrective action requests.


Nussbaum, R. and Simula, M. The Forest Certification Handbook - 2nd edition. Earthscan, 2005.
An excellent book that gives practical advice on developing, selecting and operating a certification programme which provides both market security and raises standards of forestry management.