Independent certification of forest management was established in the 1990s as a voluntary, market-based mechanism, by a number of voluntary environmental and social groups in response to public and consumer concern that some forest products came from forests that were unsustainably or badly managed.
Retailers of timber and other forest products buyers began to demand timber certified to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme. Other certification schemes, such as PEFC, have since been established and now both FSC and PEFC are increasingly required to provide assurances that products have been sourced from responsibly managed forests.
The initiative to develop forest certification in the UK led to the publication of two national documents namely, the United Kingdom Forestry Standard (the Government’s Approach to Sustainable Forestry), which was revised in 2011, and the Forest Management Certification Standard, which is known as the United Kingdom Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS).
UKWAS also underwent a major review and thorough public consultation exercise during 2010 and 2011. The revision of the Standard was published in November 2011. The UK is in the unique position that the UKWAS standard is endorsed by both FSC and PEFC, as it meets the stringent requirements of both schemes.
When forest management certification was first established in the UK all the certified forests were certified to the FSC standard. However, in March 2010, some one million hectares of UK forests were awarded PEFC forest management certification. The certification includes all the Forestry Commission forests in England, Scotland and Wales and some 500 privately owned forest estates, including a number in Northern Ireland, managed through the Scottish Woodlands and UPM Tilhill forest group certification schemes.
Dual certification enables those selling timber and other forest products from these certified forests to display the PEFC logo as well as the logo of the FSC as an assurance that these products come from responsibly-managed forests.
The UK forestry industry, along with other enterprises selling timber across Europe, recognises that a number of buyers of timber and other forest products are keen to source PEFC-certified products and, in some cases, buyers look for both PEFC and FSC certification. This is particularly the case for overseas buyers looking to source UK timber. This move to dual certification will now provide industry in the UK with greater flexibility to meet customers’ requirements for certified timber.