According to the study - "PEFC - An Analysis" - PEFC cannot guarantee that timber products come from forest management free of environmental and social conflict. It may therefore pose a substantial risk to the credibility of retailers, the timber trade and forest industries.
"We were surprised when the experts presented the initial results of the research," said Heiko Liedeker, Chairman of the European Forest Team of WWF. "We knew that PEFC was a one-sided system and that it was deficient in many parts, but we didn't think that there would be so little substance to PEFC. In fact, we are now convinced that the PEFC label cannot provide any guarantee of good forest management to timber industries, retailers and consumers."
According to the report, PEFC does not require that high conservation value forests are protected, and has no safeguards against the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms in forest management. In addition, it has no comprehensive mechanism to resolve social conflicts or to recognize indigenous peoples' rights.
PEFC does not even consistently require nor verify legal compliance in certified forests. It fails to meet several fundamental requirements of the World Trade Organization's Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBTA).
The study makes clear that equal participation of interest groups and balanced decision-making, as internationally agreed in Agenda 21 and in regulations of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), are not implemented. Non-governmental organisations may only become extraordinary members of the European PEFC Council, without voting rights. Membership of individual forest owners, the very clientele PEFC was established for, is not at all provided for.
Often, PEFC certificates are not based on the commitment of the individual forest owner, but awarded to entire forest regions with hundreds or thousands of forest holdings. Thus, PEFC is not likely to recognise special achievements, nor able to identify poor practice.
"PEFC's claims are misleading forest industries, the timber trade, retailers and consumers," added Mr. Liedeker. "The report shows clearly that PEFC's procedures to verify product claims throughout the chain of custody are deficient. While some elements of national PEFC schemes may potentially encourage improved forest management, the certificate as such can simply not guarantee that labelled timber products come from environmentally appropriate and socially responsible forest management."
For further information:
Heiko Liedeker, Chairman of the European Forest Team of WWF, phone: +41 79 407 35 07.