Commentary: Beyond Forest Certification

Lead Author: Dr. Jeff Howe

Publish date: 10.01.2005


For over a dozen years now certification has played a pivotal role in the development of forest management policy and practices. More recently, certification has begun to take a foothold in the “green” practices within Western Europe and North America. Inevitably, as the concept has developed breadth and depth, new issues and concerns have arisen, and both expected and unexpected benefits have been achieved. It is time to evaluate both accomplishments and concerns.


Originally, forest certification had some lofty goals. Key among them, in no particular order, were:


  • Provide an alternate to boycotts by allowing the marketplace to identify wood from sustainably managed forests and avoiding wood that did not.
  • Create a market incentive and reward system the profited those who provided materials from sustainably managed forests.
  • Link the complex social, environmental and economic issues surrounding forestry in a manner from which real decisions can be made, and real long-term progress accomplished.
  • Protect diverse natural forests.
  • Preserve unique forest ecosystems.
  • Create significant long-term value in retaining large areas of forestland.
  • Create some common language around forest management issues, e.g. a common definition of “sustainability.”
  • Change the debate from “If we harvest” to “how we harvest” thus recognizing forests as a critical source of environmentally friendly industrial raw materials.
  • Influence the behavior of all forest managers toward more environmentally responsible behaviors.
  • Bring diverse interest groups together in a positive debate about forest management issues.


As part of our continued reporting on the issues surrounding forest certification, Dovetail Partners, Inc is developing a progress report on the success of certification in addressing its goals. As a prelude to this report, and in the spirit of inclusiveness, we are looking for feedback from our subscribers. Each of you is getting our newsletter because you have been referred to us as someone knowledgeable and concerned with forestry and forest products issues. We now need your help. To the best of your ability, please answer the following four questions from your personal point of view:


  • What are the three most important goals of forest certification?
  • What are the three most important accomplishments or impacts resulting from the existence of forest certification?
  • What are the three most critical issues forest certification has yet to address?
  • What is your affiliation? (E.g. industry, environmental group, government, other?)


You can send your answers to these questions and any other comments to It is essential that you include your affiliation, as we will not include any response that does not include the affiliation. Individual responses will be kept completely confidential but we do expect an honest reporting for categorization purposes only.


Your participation is critical! We must recognize success when it occurs and identify opportunities for improvement. With your help, our January newsletter will include a summary of your responses as part of our own evaluation and discussion of the status of forest certification.


Thanks for your help!!


Dr. Jeff Howe