Chain of Custody Forest Certification is a voluntary market based initiative that enables consumers to confidently purchase wood that is harvested from responsibly managed forests.
The chain of custody refers to all the steps involved in taking the forest product from the forest itself, through manufacture, transport and distribution to the point of purchase. For an end product to be labelled certified there must be an unbroken chain of certified organisations covering change of legal ownership.
Certification of the chain of custody provides regonition of an organisation's compliance with a set of documented standards required at each stage in the chain. The planning, procedures, systems and performance of forestry operations are audited by qualified and independent third party organisations against the predetermined standard. Forest operations found to conform to the standard are certified, giving consumers confidence and assurance when purchasing timber.
In the early 1990s, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) a non-government organisations based in Germany, originated the first recognised forest certification scheme. Since then a range of schemes have originated, working at both domestic and international level.
In Australia, forestry organisations have sought certification under the FSC or through Responsible Wood (formerly Australian Forestry Standard), whose forest certification scheme is recognised under AS4708. A world-class forestry standard, the Responsible Wood Certification Scheme is endorsed by the world's biggest assessor of sustainable forest management, the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
Since forest certification was introduced to Australia a lot has been achieved.
One of the underpinning standards of the Responsible Wood Certification Scheme – AS4708 – has been used to certify over 77% (8.7 million hectares) of Australian native forests and plantations. The target is to certify the remaining 2.5 million hectares by 2012.1
Sustainable forest management makes the forestry industry one of the most greenhouse friendly sectors of the Australian economy. A sustainably managed forest has three values at its core: maintaining ecological processes within the forest; maintaining biodiversity; and optimising environmental, economic and social benefits for current and future generations.1 On top of a focus on renewable energy it has been noted that in 2004 a net 14.9 million tonnes of carbon were removed from the atmosphere through sustainable forestry and carbon store in wood products.2
Through the help of forest certification schemes Australia's forest management is among the best in the world in terms of conservation reserves and codes of practice for commercial forests. Only 6% of Australia's native forests are public forests and of these, the actual timber area harvested amounts to approximately 1% of the 6% available.3 And while no one would argue that forest certification provides a perfect environmental solution, it is clear that forest certification goes a long way in generating a better environmental outcome for all.
For more information on third party certification see the following links as well as the reports available for download below.
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1 The Australian Forest Certification Scheme, Australian Forestry Standard AS 4708 fact sheet.
2 Forests, Wood and Australia's Carbon Balance, Forest and Wood Products Research and Development Corporation
3 Wood, timber and the environment www.naturallybetter.com.au