COVID-19: PEFC Guidance

PEFC's guidance to certified entities and certification bodies during the effects of COVID-19.

COVID-19: PEFC Guidance

To support certified entities and certification bodies during the effects of COVID-19 worldwide, we have produced guidance regarding auditing (chain of custody and sustainable forest management), and the transition to the 2020 standards.

As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, we are working to keep our guidance up-to-date. All the latest versions of our guidance can be found on this website, while any important updates are announced on our Twitter account.

Guidance for auditing

Due to the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, travel and medical restrictions are affecting auditing activities. In order to give some flexibility to certification bodies and certified companies affected by the disease, we have issued guidance.

The main methods to ease the consequences of travel restrictions are the implementation of remote audits, and where this is not sufficient, the extension of time periods affecting the certificate. 

Chain of custody audits

This guidance enters into force and can be applied by certification bodies from the day of its publication (10 March 2020) and is applicable until PEFC Council revokes the guidance. This updated guidance - Version 7 - was released 25 February 2021.

The document provides general procedures for the application of this guidance, as well as specific rules for initial and re-certification audits, surveillance audits and verification of corrective actions. It is based on IAF documents and the recently revised PEFC requirements for certification bodies operating chain of custody audits: PEFC ST 2003:2020.

The latest version (Version 7) provides new guidance on maintaining the qualification of auditors. The deadline for auditors that have not performed the minimum number of annual audits for the year 2020, due to COVID‐19, is now 31 March 2021.

Sustainable forest management audits

This guidance enters into force and can be applied by certification bodies from the day of its publication (9 April 2020) and is applicable until PEFC Council revokes the guidance. This updated guidance - Version 3 - was released 18 December 2020.

The document provides general procedures for the application of this guidance, as well as specific rules for initial and re-certification audits, surveillance audits and internal monitoring programmes for group organizations.  

It is based on IAF Informative Document on the Management of Extraordinary Events or Circumstances Affecting ABs, CABs and Certified Organizations (IAF ID 3: 2011 - Issue 1) and IAF Mandatory Document for the Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Auditing/Assessment Purposes (IAF MD 4:2018 - Issue 2).

The latest version (Version 3) provides updates on auditing, including the introduction of hybrid audits, where an auditor or technical expert is on-site and the audit team leader is at a remote location. It also provides the possibility of postponing external surveillance audits and the annual internal monitoring programme for a maximum of six months. 

See the tracked changes document for a detailed overview of all the changes.

Transition to the 2020 standards

We have extended the transition period for our three revised international standards by twelve months. This extension applies to the 2020 versions of the Chain of Custody (ST 2002), PEFC Trademarks (ST 2001) and Certification Body Requirements - Chain of Custody (ST 2003) standards.

While the first 6-month extension was due to Covid-19, a second 6-month extension follows the recent EA evaluation. The new transition date - the date by when your procedures need to be in line with the requirements of the 2020 standards - is 14 August 2022.

This extension gives certified entities and certification and accreditation bodies an additional six months to align their procedures with the requirements in the 2020 versions of these three vital standards. The aim of the extension is to give our stakeholders more flexibility in when they move to the 2020 standards, as we understand the current situation is very difficult for many companies around the world.

Find out more about the 2020 standards.

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