Caring for our forests globally
National Sites

Sustainable Forest Management

Sustainable forest management means the environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of forests for present and future generations.

trees-skyYet sustainable forest management is an evolving process, and the parameters defining it change over time based on the latest scientific knowledge and society's understanding of the concept.

The forest ecosystem is highly complex, and influenced by numerous external factors. Similarly, different forest types in different regions of the world require different sustainable management strategies.

This means that criteria for sustainable forest management must be constantly adapted to new circumstances; they must reflect the national context and the specific ecological and environmental conditions, as well as social, economic, political, cultural and spiritual dimensions.

The challenge for a global forest certification system is therefore to develop an approach that:

  • sets robust standards and realistic criteria for sustainable forest management at a global level that enjoy acceptance by stakeholders around the world, and that are continuously updated to incorporate new knowledge, best practices and changing expectations;
  • is flexible enough to reflect the specific national circumstances as elaborated with input from all interested parties at local level, yet is also in compliance with international requirements; and
  • is accessible, viable and affordable not only to multinational corporations managing large areas of natural forests and plantations, but also to the millions of small family and community-forest owners for which forests represent an important part of their livelihoods.

To meet these challenges, PEFC emphasizes a "bottom-up" approach, whereby national certification systems are developed independently and come together in PEFC.

To do so, they need to prove compliance with PEFC's Sustainability Benchmarks, globally recognized principles, guidelines and criteria developed by international and intergovernmental bodies with broad consensus from interested stakeholders. These processes are ongoing and are supplemented by additional requirements developed through multi-stakeholder processes facilitated by PEFC.

This is a unique approach and one pioneered by PEFC.

By requiring that local stakeholders be involved in both standard-setting and decision-making on it before a system can be endorsed, PEFC ensures that standards are adapted to meet local cultural, socio-economic, physical, biological, climatic, and geopolitical realities while at the same time meeting internationally-recognised benchmarks for sustainable forest management.

This diversity over and above the international benchmark is to be celebrated. It is one of the strengths of PEFC reflecting reality and avoiding homogeneity and straight-jacketing into “one standard fits” all.

PEFC remains the certification system of choice for small, non-industrial forests, with hundreds of thousands of family-owned forests certified to comply with its Sustainability Benchmarks.