Combining fair trade and sustainable forestry certification
Certifying timber in the South
The major social and environmental issues concerning the world's forests arise mostly in the tropics, especially in terms of forest degradation and indigenous and workers rights. However almost 90 percent of certified forests (FSC & PEFC) are in the northern hemisphere – mostly large-scale producers in North America and Europe.
Forest certification is considered a valuable instrument to promote SFM (sustainable forest management), but many community forests and smaller enterprises find it difficult to afford the high cost of certification. Initial expectations of a price premium for certified forest products have also not been met, with the costs of forest management certification largely assumed by the land owners and/or land managers – not shared effectively throughout the supply chain.
Fair trade as a path to forest certification
If forest products do not get a fair or premium price or no market access is assured, why should poor small forest owners spend more time and resources to make their forest management more sustainable? This is the premise behind the idea of combining Fair Trade principles with Sustainable Forest Management concept, with European consumers in part willing to pay higher prices for goods in order to support sustainable development objectives. The Fair Trade concept allows community and small forest owners to be compensated for managing their forests in a sustainable manner through an assurance of fair and premium prices.
Some initiatives, such as the dual FSC / Fairtrade labeling program have already been established in this this area.
Sustainable Timber Action aims to support this process by:
- Developing a framework for how to combine the two certification approaches both from the forest manager and trader perspective (a technical model is under development
- Encouraging public authorities as consumers to purchase fair and sustainable timber, and thus provide a vital market for such goods
- Promoting existing best practices among producers and suppliers that have combined Fair Trade and Sustainable Forest Management certification
- Taylor, P.L., 2005. A Fair Trade approach to community forest certification? A framework for discussion.Journal of rural studies.
- Macqueen, D., et al. 2006. Exploring fair trade timber: a review of issues in current practice, institutional structures and ways forward. International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)., London, UK.
- Macqueen, D., et al. 2008. Distinguishing community forest products in the market: Industrial demand for a mechanism that brings together forest certication and fair trade. IIED, Edinburgh, UK.