WWF says it acknowledges the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) schemes has “improved” but it still refuses to recommend the system.

The conservation group gave its evaluation following the completion of three studies into PEFC and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). It said the studies, which involved WWF, highlighted key differences and similarities between individual national schemes for the first time.

WWF said FSC was found to meet the group’s core values, drive significant improvements in forest management on the ground and deliver consistency across countries.

But it said PEFC was “inconsistent”, more difficult to measure due to lack of transparency and, in most cases, “inferior” to FSC.

Per Rosenberg, director of WWF Global Forest and Trade Network, said despite positive improvements, PEFC could not guarantee well-managed forests.

He said: “This makes it impossible for WWF to recommend PEFC to forest managers, buyers and consumers, even though individual PEFC schemes like the UK and Sweden [ones] perform better than other PEFC schemes.”

WWF said FSC needs to improve its approach to interim standards, while PEFC must improve transparency of decision-making and reporting, stakeholder participation, reliable assessment and remove conflicts of interests.

The group plans to support preparation of a national standard in countries where there is conflict between schemes.

The three studies were the WWF/World Bank Alliance trial of the Questionnaire for Assessing the Comprehensiveness of Certification Schemes/Systems; a parallel certification test conducted by UPM in Europe and Canada; and an analysis of corrective action requests across six European countries.