Forest certification is a widely recognized method to prove sustainable forestry. It is also a rapidly growing trend at present, as the demand for certified wood has been increasing during the last two decades. Today, mainly the big actors within the field of forest and wood chain management are being certified. The 16 million small, private forest owners in Europe, holding 55 % of European forests, are often not. This is due to barriers such as certification cost and the fact that requirements are often developed for large-scale forestry. To ensure that small forest owners can compete on the same terms as the larger ones, the administrative, knowledge-related and financial barriers for certification of smaller forest owners must be cleared.
To facilitate certification of forest and to reduce the difficulties for smaller forest owners, a labeling method for certification of forest contractors has been developed within the CeFCo (Certification of Forest Contractors) project. The reason for certifying contractors before the owners is that many small forest owners hire contractors for managing their forests. By using a certified contractor, the forest owners are reducing the demands when entering certification themselves.
Within the project, one check-list for forest owners and one for contractors have been designed, to easily state what is demanded from the two actors respectively. Both checklists were developed to specify a list of tasks for forest owners to delegate to the contractors, and a standard for contractors which was actually an elaboration of the already existing SmartLogger concept. Evaluating existing forestry standards and procedures in five pilot countries was the basis for the development of the project idea. Pilots have been introduced in Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal and Bulgaria. In the pilot countries, check-lists were tested and modified in close cooperation with forest owners and contractors. As a last step, training and dissemination of information has been performed in these countries.
Forest owners and contractors have to meet the requirements of the standards to receive a certificate, and an external service provider assesses the work done by both parties and issues the certificate. So far all certificates have been published on a webpage that is also presenting related information about other certification and labeling projects. However, there are national differences regarding how far forest standardization has come, and the method is not directly applicable to all EU countries. Rather, it contains basic tools to achieve a simplified certification of forest contractors that might need modification depending on the national circumstances.
The three-year project will end in 2012 and was funded by the EU within the CIP programme , which is a grant funding programme. The three project partners are NEPCon, a non-profit organization working worldwide to support sustainable use of natural resources, FSC, Forest Stewardship Council, a non-profit global forestry certification organization and ENFE, the umbrella organization of European forestry contractors.
The results from the project are now used by NEPCon to certify forest contractors and forest owners. Thus, the technology readiness level is 9 on the TRL scale. Moreover, results are subject to evaluation by FSC, as they are aiming to develop a new concept of contractor certification and general guidelines for contractor certification in Europe. An informational toolkit will also be created to facilitate access to certification, and to help European countries who wish to prepare sub-standards for the certification of forest contractors to do so with minimal effort.