Impacts of voluntary forest management certification: Challenges for evaluating uptake of complex settings of legal and negotiated standard requirements

2013 EEEN Forum

Dr. Marion Karmann, Monitoring & Evaluation Program Manager FSC International, Global Development, Charles-de-Gaulle Str. 5, 53113 Bonn

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. Today forest certification or elements of it are directly or indirectly required in a number of national forestry or procurement policies.
Forest management is an intervention in forest ecosystems. The Forest Stewardship Council’s standards (FSC), developed in multi-stakeholder processes, strive to minimize the negative impact on the ecosystem and on social issues while guaranteeing financial viability. As of November 2012, FSC has certified more than 1.170 FM companies (with 168 Million hectares)
in 79 countries.

Methodological questions of counterfactuals, regional and time scales are challenging, when forest management interventions following certification requirements are to be compared with forest under conservation status or with conventionally managed forests.

From auditors’ perspective it is reported, that forest certification e.g. serves as “soft” forest law enforcement: due to annual audits foresters tend to adhere to the relevant laws and regulations The evaluators’ challenge would be to overcome the attribution gap: Is forest management in alignment with legal requirements because of the law or because of the additional control mechanisms? Another challenging research question is whether the quality of stakeholder consultations in negotiating national indicators for forest management and in certification processes is sufficient. Certain stakeholders require stronger reflection of their interests in the standards, which challenges the FSC system for better communication e.g. of certification impacts and of the multi-stakeholder concept. Are all relevant stakeholders identified and engaged?

The paper shows the need for individual researchers’ and evaluation teams’ assessments of interventions’ impacts on forest ecosystems, as well as of related public consultation processes.


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