Forest certification schemes are market-based instruments which seek to improve consumer awareness of the environmental qualities of sustainable forest management and to promote the use of wood and forest products as environmentally friendly and renewable raw materials (Article 15 of the 1998 Council resolution on a forestry strategy for the European Union).
The EU forestry strategy further stipulates that the performance indicators used by such systems should be compatible with internationally agreed principles of sustainable forest management. Certification schemes should be voluntary, credible, transparent, cost-efficient and non-discriminatory with respect to forest types and owners. An essential point in ensuring credibility is the independent audit of forest management.
The development of forest certification in the EU since the adoption of the EU forestry strategy is summarised in the Commission staff working document annexed to the 2005 Commission communication on the implementation of the EU forestry strategy, in particular in sections 6.8 and 8.4.
Public procurement is one area where certification schemes are often relied upon to guarantee that the goods purchased comply with the environmental criteria set by public authorities. The Commission’s website on green public procurement provides a general overview of the subject, while the Handbook on environmental public procurement describes green procurement rules with specific references to their application to forest products (pages 25-26).