PEFC certification and our international cooperation activities are all about creating positive impacts for people, forests and our planet. However, measuring and communicating the impacts is an emerging area for all third party certification systems, and it is by no means simple.
While the development of robust methodologies and mechanisms to quantify impacts of forest certification will continue to evolve, it is important to start highlighting the approaches we have developed thus far and to of course, start communicating the impacts we have already creating through our projects.
Measuring the environmental impact of certification
PEFC has been working to bridge a gap between two commonly utilized sustainability approaches – Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and forest certification. Forest certification is a system to offer assurance and traceability that the forest-based products are derived from forests under sustainable management. Life Cycle Assessment on the other hand, is an approach to evaluate the environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle. Until now there has not been any data or methodology to integrate the comparative environmental impacts of certified products as compared to uncertified products within a timber and wood-based product LCA.
In 2012, PEFC commissioned a project with Quantis, a leading LCA consultancy, to develop and pilot a new methodology and datasets to enable companies to differentiate certified and non-certified forest products within their LCA. Pilot application of the datasets resulted in significant differences across climate change, human health and ecosystem quality impact categories when certified and uncertified products were compared.
Although the study is only a first step in a long journey, the proof of concept shows that corporations and consumers will be able to measure and minimize the environmental impact of their wood and forest-product procurement and to subsequently integrate and monitor the real impacts of forest certification in sustainability reporting. PEFC is hopeful that this effort to better quantify the impact of certified product sourcing can stimulate demand for certification.
Impacts from PEFC Collaboration Fund
Even though it's still early days for the Fund, it has succeeded in bringing to life a wide range of projects and inspiring collaboration and new partnerships all over the world. The Fund has actively invested in local efforts to raise awareness and capacity to promote forest certification, develop national certification systems, and undertake research and development for new products and services within PEFC certification. Reflecting on these first two years of operation, a number of positive impacts from the Fund can already be observed.
Using innovation to develop new tools to advance certification
The availability of technology today is a lot different than when forest certification was first conceived in the 1990s. Certification needs to constantly assess how and where new technologies can be incorporated, to contribute to increased efficiencies, system robustness and enhance social interaction. Towards these objectives, the Collaboration Fund has invested in:
- Development of a web-based registration tool to facilitate small forest owners in applying to Group Forest Management Certification. Developed by Ingenieursbureu Evan Buytendik BV and partners, and piloted in the Netherlands, the system is now being refitted to enable its replication for use in other countries. As making certification 'cost affordable' to small forest owners is a real challenge for expanding certification, this system succeeds in streamlining the process with related efficiency gains.
- Piloting a web-based traceability system for non-timber forest products from forest to consumer markets. Forests contain a wealth of products and services beyond the timber that receives much of the spotlight. This project, implemented by CeseFOR, the Castilla y León regional wood and forestry industry centre in Spain and partners, is developing a web-based platform to enable consumers to trace and learn about the origin of the PEFC-certified mushrooms they are consuming. Perhaps by finding new ways to communicate the benefits of responsible forestry we can change how society value's forest resources.
Building and Mobilizing a PEFC community of best practice
Through the Funds requirements for partners and co-funding, it has succeeded in inspiring many new relationships between PEFC International, our members and partner organizations operating at local levels. One of the most inspiring formats being observed is the mentoring and twinning support delivered by PEFC national members to organizations in different countries who are working to establish national certification systems. The collective knowledge and capabilities of the PEFC family is immense and the Fund is creating the framework to mobilize our assets.
- In Hungary, ERFARET Non-profit Ltd. (ERFARET) an organization founded by the University of West-Hungary, is benefiting from PEFC's community of practice by drawing on the advice of PEFC's members in Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany, as they make their way forward in developing a national system for Hungary.
- In the Balkans, Fund recipients including Eko-Zona-Sipovo in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Institut Za Sumartsvo in Montenegro, have been cooperating directly with PEFC Italy on projects focused on raising awareness and interest amongst private forest owners in the region and undertaking preliminary actions to establish a process for system development.
- The establishment of the E-Learning 4 PEFC Platform will provide a new approach to advance capacity building and knowledge sharing across PEFC members and stakeholders. It will increase the availability of information about PEFC concepts, tools and objectives at national and international level and offer the online infrastructure and training material to conduct courses on a variety of topics.