Our forests are under threat – here’s how they are certified

Context: The certification industry offers a multi-layer audit system that seeks to authenticate the origin, legality, and sustainability of forest-based products such as timber, etc.


  • With climate change, deforestation has become a critically sensitive issue globally.
  • Forests absorb large amounts of CO2, keeping a check on global warming.
  • At the Glasgow climate meeting (2021), more than 100 countries took a pledge to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030.
  • Europe and the US have passed laws that regulate the entry and sale of forest-based products in their markets. This is where the certification industry comes in.
  • The industry, through independent third-party audits, helps in establishing whether forests were being managed in a sustainable manner.


Two major international standards for sustainable management of forests and forest-based products:

  • Developed by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – More popular and expensive
  • Developed by Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certifications (PEFC) – Endorses the ‘national’ standards of any country


How will they work?

  • Organisations like FSC/PEFC are only the developers and owners of standards like, for example, the ISO/BIS.
  • They are not involved in the evaluation and auditing of the processes.
  • That is the job of certification bodies authorised by the FSC or PEFC.


Two main types of certification on offer:

  • Forest management (FM)
  • Chain of Custody (CoC): Guarantees the traceability of a forest product like timber throughout the supply chain from origin to market.


Forest certification in India:

  • Though the industry has been operating in India for the last 15 years, forests in only one state (UP) are certified.
  • 41 divisions of the UP Forest Corporation (UPFC) are PEFC-certified and are managed according to the standards developed by the nonprofit Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF).
  • Some other states too obtained certification. However, all of these expired over time.
  • Many agroforestry projects (paper mills, etc), meant for captive use of the industry, too have forest management certification.



  • There are a large number of CoC certifications, but the dropout rate is 40%.
  • India’s wood import bill is Rs 50,000-60,000 crores per year.
    • India’s forests contribute just about five million cubic metres (5%) of wood every year.
    • Almost 85% of the demand is met by trees outside forests (ToF) and about 10% is imported.
  • India allows the export of only processed wood, not timber.


Way ahead:

  • India-specific standards: Since ToF are so important, new certification standards are being developed for their sustainable management.
  • The government’s own standards: The corruption in the private certification space has come under sustained criticism.


Conclusion: A simple, transparent, easy to adopt and internationally accepted indigenous system of certifications will take into account India’s national circumstances and will make available sustainably grown and managed forest products in the domestic market.

You might also like

Comments are closed.