While the European Commission’s latest EU Forest Strategy is a vital tool to protect Europe’s forests, it has overlooked the achievements and powerful potential of credible forest certification schemes, such as that of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

I believe this is a serious oversight on the part of the Commission, particularly when more than half of the EU’s forest cover is now certified by private certification schemes. In fact, an estimated 55-65% of total forest area in the EU is now certified.
Besides the positive impact that certification schemes have on forest management, they also facilitate industry, buyers and sellers to choose responsibly sourced wood or wood-based products through their chain of custody and labelling practices. This is evidenced clearly by the fact that nearly 13,000 EU-based companies now process and sell FSC wood.

Across the rest of the world, certification schemes are also proving to be increasingly successful in motivating industry, public procurers and consumers to support sustainable forest management with their purchasing power. Global production of certified roundwood has increased and in Europe more than 70% of all pulp used in paper and board production comes from certified forests.

The new EU Forest Strategy highlights the importance of forests for the region’s economy, employment and environment. It sets important guiding principles for forests and for forests’ goods and services, including sustainable forest management, forest protection, resource efficiency and global responsibility. However, I encourage the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to evaluate the impacts of the different certification schemes active in the EU, and globally, in ensuring sustainable forest management in practice, and to recognise those that perform sufficiently.

The Commission and member states should promote increased use of transparent and effective forest management and chain of custody certification systems, governed through the balanced participation of social, economic and environmental stakeholders, within and beyond the EU. They should also champion group certification as a tool to overcome the constraints of fragmented forest ownership in many countries.

Certification schemes have proven to be instrumental in other EU policies such as the EU Timber Regulation, EU Eco-labelling and Green Public Procurement, but the Forest Strategy has overlooked their potential as a tool for achieving sustainable forest management.