The new benchmarks are a leap forward for sustainable forest management and small forest holders…

Endorsed following a vote of the PEFC General Assembly in Switzerland, Responsible Wood is proud to announce that new Sustainable Forest Management and Group Forest Management Certification benchmark standards have been developed for use.

Endorsed by the PEFC General Assembly

Representing Responsible Wood, the PEFC National Governing Body in Australia, Simon Dorries advised that the new benchmark standards are an important step in lifting the environmental and social credentials of forest certification.

“In Australia we are currently preparing for a revision of AS 4708 – Sustainable Forest Management. As an Australian Standard, with the international endorsement from PEFC, our standards must meet all PEFC benchmarks for forest management.”

“We welcome the expansion of social requirements to include minimum wages for forest workers, equal opportunities for employment, non-discrimination, gender equality and enhanced provisions to safe guard the interests of indigenous peoples.”

“Certification has an important role to play in forest management, the Responsible Wood ‘trust mark’ ensures that all paper and wood based products are sourced from a responsible origin; our ‘trust mark’ is a must for all conscious purchase of timber or paper in Australia and across the world,” Mr Dorries said.

Approval by the PEFC General Assembly is the final step in the development and revision of our standards. The revision of these two benchmark standards began in 2016, and it has taken the input of numerous experts and hundreds of stakeholders to reach this point. But the work doesn’t stop there – now comes the implementation process!

So what has changed?

Sustainable Forest Management

The PEFC Sustainable Forest Management benchmark is at the core of what we do. It provides the basis for the requirements that forest owners or managers must meet to achieve PEFC certification at local level.

This new benchmark extends the impact of PEFC certification beyond forests and enhances its contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We have expanded the social requirements to include minimum wages for forest workers, equal opportunities for employment and non-discrimination, and promote gender equality. There are also enhanced provisions designed to safeguard the interests of indigenous peoples.

With the inclusion of Trees outside Forests (TOF), PEFC certification will become accessible to the millions of farmers and smallholders that do not own or manage forests, but rather trees on agricultural or settlement land that are currently outside the scope of certification.

Find out more about the changes by listening to our two webinars: Sustainable Forest Management and Trees outside Forests.

Group Forest Management Certification

This benchmark defines the general requirements for forest certification systems with group certification, enabling the certification of a number of forest owners under one certificate.

Group certification works through a combination of internal and external auditing. As smallholders can pool resources and jointly apply for certification, costs are substantially lower, helping make certification accessible. However, this means that internal auditing must work flawlessly.

The revised benchmark provides an innovative framework for internal monitoring and auditing in certified groups. This includes improved requirements for internal auditing, such as risk based sampling groups and minimum sample size, as well as strengthening the management system of the group itself.

This framework provides additional safeguards assuring compliance of everyone within a group with PEFC requirements, while enabling smallholders to benefit from affordable certification.