Evaluating the impact of voluntary forest management certification on forest ecology – from evaluators and stakeholders’ perspectives

2012 EEEN Forum / Evaluation

Marion Karmann, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

Third-party forest management (FM) certification emerged in the 1990s as a tool for assessing and communicating the environmental and social performance of forest operations. The Forest Steward­ship Council (FSC) developed in multi-stakeholder processes standards for responsibly managed forests. The nationally adapted standards are widely accepted as being consistent with the principles of good FM. The FSC logo is a powerful incentive for forest managers to improve FM continuously. As of September 2011, FSC has certified more than 1.060 FM companies (with 140 million hectares) in 79 countries.

In conducting forest audits, FSC-accredited certification companies do not certify that a FM unit has ‘achieved sus­tainability’, nor do they require the implementation of uniform sets of FM prescriptions: they certify that FSC require­ments for FM have been met. Over the years different authors and research networks analysed public certifi­cation reports and reviewed literature about certification impacts, and found that certification has the potential to and actually has for example helped secure or improve environmental services in certified forests.

Nevertheless FM is an intervention in forest ecosystems. FSC strives to minimise the negative impact on the eco­system and on social issues while guaranteeing financial viability. Certain stakeholders require stronger reflection of their interests in the standards for FM, which challenges the FSC system for better communication e.g. of certifica­tion impacts and of the multi-stakeholder concept.

The presentation will show where individual researchers and evaluation teams can evaluate the interventions’ im­pacts on forest ecosystems and strengths and weaknesses of related public consul­tation processes.

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