Forest certification has developed as a way of demonstrating the implementation of sustainable forest management practices. To have a forest certified as being sustainably managed, an audit is undertaken by an independent, third party certification body. The audit assesses the forest management practices of a forest manager or owner against the standard for certification. Both native forests and plantations can be certified.
The two major global forest certification bodies are the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) schemes and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Both the PEFC and FSC are internationally recognised forest certification networks that provide for the mutual recognition of regional and national standards that meet their criteria for sustainable forest management.
In Australia, forest managers and owners have the option of certifying their forests under either the Australian Forest Certification Scheme (AFCS), which is recognised under the PEFC, or the FSC. The AFCS uses the Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) as the relevant standard for certifying forest management. FSC currently uses two interim, regionally adapted forest management standards in Australia but has committed to the development of a national FSC standard for Australia.
The AFCS is administered by AFS Ltd whereas FSC certification in Australia is administered by FSC Australia.
Presently there are around 10.6 million hectares of native and plantation forests certified in Australia. This consists of 10.1 million hectares certified under the AFCS and 900,000 hectares under the FSC. The total includes about 400,000 hectares of forest certified under both schemes.
Wood and wood-based products sourced from certified forests can also be tracked (via labelling) through the supply chain using chain-of-custody certification provided by both forest certification schemes. This provides consumers with an assurance that the wood product they are purchasing comes from a sustainably managed and certified forest.
The Australian Government supports all credible internationally recognised forest certification schemes that provide for legal and sustainable forest management and believes that the choice of forest certification scheme(s) is a decision for forest owners/managers.