“Forest Management Certification in the UK: Options for Improvement”, by consultant Sandy Greig, also explores two less radical options for bringing down the cost of certification for Confor members who have become frustrated at the expense and additional requirements of FSC and PEFC forest management and chain of custody certification.

Confor chief executive Stuart Goodall said increased certification fees, new requirements such as FSC’s Online Claims Platform and the potential prospect of an ISO Chain of Custody system meant it was an “opportune time to have a thorough review of how certification operates in the UK”.

The report recommends that Confor should take “soundings” from the wood processing and end user sectors to establish if there is an appetite for moving away from current certification systems, as well as talking to the four forest regulatory authorities.

This option, which could be based on the UK Forest Standard, could reduce costs for Confor members but depended on the view of markets and was likely to be resisted by some major stakeholders.

“All agree that it would be a very big step to move away from independently verified forest management certification,” the report states.

“It could only be done after extensive dialogue with the main end users of UK timber and an assessment of the reaction of consumers and environmental organisations.”

Report author Mr Greig says the UK government’s view would be “critical”.

The most popular option discussed with report interviewees was revising the current auditing processes, though Mr Greig states this was “unlikely” to achieve substantial cost reductions.

Confor said the level of certification uptake in the UK had flat-lined, with the area of certified woodland remaining constant since around 2007. Only 22% of the UK’s privately-owned woodlands are certified.

It said as UK wood supply chain became increasingly reliant on supplies from private forest owners over the next few decades then difficulties in sourcing certified timber may grow and it was vital that the system provided value and worked effectively.

Confor will work with members to review the report findings, with a first meeting scheduled for April.