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Forest certification in Canada

Forest management certification is carried out by independent organizations that assess forestry operations against standards for sustainable forest management. Canada has the largest area of third-party-certified forests in the world. This, coupled with strong forest management governance, supports Canada’s reputation as a source of legally and sustainably produced forest products.

SEE ALSO: Canada’s forestry laws: Why Canada is trusted for legal, sustainable forest products


Certification provides assurance of legal, sustainable forest practices

Third-party forest management certification complements Canada’s comprehensive and rigorous forest management laws and regulations. It provides added assurance that a forest company is operating legally, sustainably and in compliance with world-recognized standards for sustainable forest management.

Since it emerged in the 1990s, forest management certification has been adopted quickly across Canada, and now more than 75% of the country’s managed forest land is certified. As of the end of 2020, Canada had 164 million hectares of independently certified forest land. That represents 36% of all certified forests worldwide, the largest area of third-party-certified forests in any country.

Certification benefits the public and forest companies

Forest certification offers different benefits to different groups:

  • Consumers can consider certification in their buying decisions.
  • Forest companies can use certification to show they are responsible resource managers.
  • The public can look to the value of certification in improving forest practices around the world.

Canada’s forest certification systems

Three forest certification systems are used in Canada, those of the Canadian Standards Association, the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) systems are endorsed by the international umbrella organization called the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC).

The Forest Stewardship Council Canada (FSC) has four Regional Forest Management Standards. Three – the National Boreal Standard, Maritimes Standard and BC Standard – have been accredited by FSC International. The fourth one, the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Standard, is currently in draft form.

Canada has more than half of the world’s PEFC-endorsed certifications and almost a third of the world’s FSC certifications.

All 3 certification systems meet rigorous standards

Although the forest certification systems differ from one another, all three are based on standards that reflect the current understanding of what sustainable forest management entails.

According to the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, all three certification systems in Canada:

  • involve independent third-party audits that assess a forest operation’s planning, procedures, systems and performance against predetermined standards
  • require annual surveillance audits and public disclosure of findings through audit reports
  • require involvement with affected Aboriginal peoples to make sure that their rights, knowledge and values are respected
  • offer chain-of-custody assurance
  • reinforce the basics of sustainable forest management by requiring that all applicable laws be obeyed and by demonstrating that no unauthorized logging has taken place
  • go beyond simple timber harvesting by ensuring the conservation of biodiversity.

Standards get updated to reflect sustainable forest management practices

The standards on which forest certification is based are not static. That’s because expectations of what certification should demonstrate are always changing. Certification standards are regularly revised to keep pace with new knowledge and emerging concerns about sustainable forest management.

Canada is a leader in sustainable forest management

Sustainable forest management means balancing environmental considerations with the economic value of the forests. Learn what makes Canada a leader in sustainable forest management.

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