Working Paper

Forest Certification: Toward CommonStandards?

Apr 20, 2005 | Carolyn Fischer, Francisco Aguilar, Puja Jawahar, Roger A. Sedjo


The forestry industry provides a good illustration of the active roles that industry associations,environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), national governments, and internationalorganizations can play in developing and promoting codes of conduct that are formally sanctioned andcertified. It also reflects some of the challenges of disseminating codes of conduct in developing countriesand ensuring market benefits from certification. We describe the emergence of forest certificationstandards, outline current certification schemes, and discuss the role of major corporations in creatingdemand for certified products. We also discuss the limited success of certification and some of theobstacles to its adoption in developing countries. The current diversity of forest certification programsand ecolabeling schemes has created a costly, less-than-transparent system that has been largelyineffective in terms of the initial goals of reducing tropical deforestation and illegal logging. Some stepshave been taken toward harmonization of different certification criteria as well as endorsement andmutual recognition among existing forest certification programs. However, it is unlikely thatstandardization alone can overcome other, more serious barriers to certification in developing countries.