Today, about 10% of forests around the world are certified and approx. 20% of American timberland. While there is a legacy of voluntary sustainable forestry practices in the U.S., fragmented land ownership and the cost and effort involved in becoming certified has hindered certification. Even so, every year more tree farms and managed forests become certified with programs such as PEFC, FSC, and SFI, as they not only provide guidelines that ensure that environmental standards are met, but they also make sure that land is managed sustainably, that suppliers and/or manufacturers purchase fiber from responsible farms and forests, and that the fiber is tracked as it moves through the supply chain.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies over 222 million acres of forests in over 82 countries, and its U.S. program certifies about 35 million acres. Certifications include forest management, chain of custody, and controlled wood (the process by which non certified wood is deemed acceptable for mixing it with FSC fiber). Likewise, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), with 63 million acres certified in the U.S., offers forest land management, fiber sourcing, and chain of custody certifications. It also addresses environmental issues, from water quality and biodiversity to harvesting and regeneration.
Finally, with 37 endorsed national certification systems, the world’s largest certification body is the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), an umbrella organization that endorses other land management systems, such as SFI and FSC. It provides assurance to purchasers of wood and paper products that they are promoting the sustainable management of forests.