A union official has been elected as chairman of PEFC International.

William Street, who is director of the Woodworkers Department for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, one of the largest industrial unions in North America, was elected by the General Assembly.

PEFC secretary-general Ben Gunneberg said the organisation has always been supportive of family forestry and forest-dependent communities and having a union leader as chairman signalled “the beginning of the next phase in the global development of forest certification”.

Mr Street said that to reduce deforestaton in the tropics “we need to strengthen responsible forest management practices that are economically viable, environmentally sound and socially just”.

“Places where social standards are least enforced and where the benefits and wealth of forestry activity are least shared are also the places where illegal forest activity and deforestation are often rampant,” he added.