Sustainable timber kitemarks ‘are working’

A Dutch study of the environmental, social and economic impacts of forest certification suggests such schemes have real and lasting benefits.

Researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands looked at reports on the management of 123 tropical forests that were covered by kitemarking schemes such as that offered by Forest Stewardship Council to see how well they lived up to their claims.

Despite some past criticism of such schemes in the media, the findings of this study were upbeat.

It suggested that even before gaining certification, conditions improve in such forests both for the local ecology and the people who work there.

It also claimed that where problems did exist, most were resolved within five years of a forest joining a certification scheme.

Social issues were seen as the easiest to resolve, while the list of hard-to-tackle problems was dominated by environmental concerns such as implementing the management plan and protecting endangered species.

The report concluded that although the area of certified forests has more than doubled since 2003, there is still a need need for strong incentives to continue boosting the area of sustainably managed forests.

For example, it said, extra attention should be given to indigenous and local people that rely on the forests, via legislation or financial/technical support.

Around 14 million hectares of forest are now FSC certified, the majority in South America.

By the end of 2008, Bolivia had the largest area of certified forest (28% of the global total) followed by Brazil (16%).

In the last two years there has been a major surge in certification in African countries.

The full report can be viewed here.

Sam Bond

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