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The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is an international, non-profit, non-governmental organization which promotes sustainable forest management through independent third party certification. It is considered the certification system of choice for small forest owners.
Its 35 worldwide independent national forest certification systems represent more than 300 million hectares (741.3 million acres) of certified forests, making it the largest forest certification system in the world, covering about two-thirds of the globally certified forest area. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland.
PEFC was founded in 1999 as an international umbrella organization providing independent assessment, endorsement and recognition of national forest certification systems. Its founding was inspired by the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and the specific requirements of small, family-owned and community forests. 
In 2000, PEFC made its first endorsements of the national standards used by Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany and Austria. In 2004 it endorsed its first non-European national standards, used by Australia and Chile. As a concequence PEFC changed its name from Pan European Forest Certification to Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes.
The endorsement of the Canadian standard in 2005 made PEFC the world’s largest resource of certified wood, with more than 100 million hectares of certified forest area. Three years later, PEFC certified area grew to 200 million hectares, which is equivalent to two-thirds of the total area certified against credible forest certification globally.
Today, PEFC is the world’s largest forest certification system and the certification system of choice for small forest owners.
Sustainable forest management criteria
PEFC International is the only international forest certification scheme that bases its criteria on internationally accepted intergovernmental conventions and guidelines, thereby linking its sustainability benchmark criteria with existing governmental processes. This includes:
- Pan-European Criteria, Indicators and Operational Level Guidelines for Sustainable Forest Management (Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe)
- ATO/ITTO Principles, criteria and indicators for the sustainable forest management of African natural tropical forests (ATO/ITTO)
- ITTO guidelines on sustainable forest management (ITTO)
- No 29: Forced Labour (1930)
- No 87: Freedom of Associations and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948)
- No 98: Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949)
- No 100: Equal Remuneration (1951)
- No 105: Abolition of Forced Labour (1957)
- No 111: Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) (1958)
- No 138: Minimum Age for Admission to Employment (1973)
- No. 182: Worst Forms of Child Labour (1999)
National forest certification systems
PEFC only recognize forests certified to standards that have been reviewed and endorsed by PEFC.
National forest certification systems that wish to be recognized by are required to set standards keeping with the requirements of ISO/IEC Guide 59:1994 Code of good practice for standardization. National standard must be developed by so-called National Governing Bodies, and meet requirements for transparency, consultation and decision-making by consensus. These guidelines also outline processes for revising and amending standards, and provide those who utilise the standard with the security of future certainty.
All PEFC-endorsed standards have been subjected to rigorous public review during their development. National forest certification systems wanting to obtain PEFC endorsement are subject to an independent assessment to ensure that it meets the many PEFC requirements for the standards development process, public review and forest management requirements. The consultant’s report is reviewed by an independent Panel of Experts and the PEFC Board, and if satisfactory, the new standard is approved by the PEFC members as a PEFC-endorsed standard. To ensure the independence of the certification bodies, they are not accredited by PEFC itself, but by a national accreditation agency.
In line with its commitment to transparency, PEFC makes its entire documentation of national forest certification system, including the independent assessments, publicly available. Information about all issued certificates, including information about suspended, withdrawn and expired certificates, is publicly available on the PEFC website.
Countries with PEFC endorsed national certification systems include: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Indonesia, India, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.
Criticism and alternative certification schemes
Forest Stewardship Council is the main alternative forest certification system. Mutual recognition of FSC and PEFC certified material in the chain of custody has not yet happened. However, FSC and PEFC use the same forest management standard in countries such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway; Malaysia has submitted its timber certification scheme for PEFC endorsement that is largely based on FSC principles and criteria.
Several environmental non-governmental organisations, such as The Wilderness Society, Greenpeace and FERN have criticised the PEFC. Greenpeace does not believe alternatives to the FSC, including PEFC, can ensure responsible forest management.
In debates around forest certification schemes like PEFC, the forest-political background of critics such as Greenpeace and Robin Wood should be taken into consideration. In critical discussions, comparisons are mostly made between PEFC and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which was founded on the initiative of the big international environmental NGOs Greenpeace and WWF.
- Max Krott (in German)
- Forest Products Annual Market Review, 2008-2009
- PEFC Members Schemes Archived 2009-02-12 at the Wayback Machine
- UNECE/FAO Forest Annual Market Review 2011-2012
- Don, Gilmour (2016). Forty years of community-based forestry - A review of its extent and effectiveness. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5415e.pdf: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). p. 101. ISBN 978-92-5-109095-4.
- PEFC Annual Review 2005
- PEFC Annual Review 2008
- ITTO Technical Series 29: Developing Forest Certification (May 2008)
- Sustainable Forest Management (PEFC ST 1003:2010) Archived 2012-03-26 at the Wayback Machine
- Pan-European Criteria, Indicators and Operational Level Guidelines for Sustainable Forest Management
- ATO/ITTO Principles, criteria and indicators for the sustainable forest management of African natural tropical forests (ATO/ITTO) Archived 2007-11-12 at the Wayback Machine
- ITTO guidelines on sustainable forest management Archived 2008-12-17 at the Wayback Machine
- Rotherham, Tony (2011). "Forest management certification around the world – Progress and problems" (PDF). The Forestry Chronicle. 87 (5): 603–611. doi:10.5558/tfc2011-067. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-06-05. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
- Forestry Certification-Sustainability Governance and Risk. ITS Global (2011) Archived 2013-06-19 at the Wayback Machine
- Documentation of PEFC-endorsed national forest certification systems
- List of PEFC-endorsed national forest certification systems
- Malaysian Criteria and Indicators for Forest Management Certification - MC&I(2002) Archived 2010-03-27 at the Wayback Machine
- 'PEFC-approved' - the unsustainable stamp of approval May 21, 2007
- "Weaker Certification Schemes". Greenpeace. Greenpeace. 3 March 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
Greenpeace International does not believe that other forest certification systems, such as PEFC have the ability to ensure responsible forest management. These systems lack robust requirements to protect social and ecological values.
- www.pefcwatch.org Archived 2007-05-04 at the Wayback Machine is a collaboration between the Finnish Nature League and Greenpeace
- Fern articles about PEFC
- Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification