Forest certification is a voluntary process used by organizations and consumers of forest products seeking assurances that the wood products they purchase originate from responsibly managed forests. The development of forest certification grew out of concerns relating to the harvest, sale, and transfer of illegal and irresponsibly harvested timber internationally, especially in tropical regions and other areas lacking a robust ecological and social regulatory presence.
Certification entails independent evaluation of forest management and harvesting practices relative to specific standards. Development and implementation of standards varies between and even within some certification schemes. Standards may be limited to forest operations and management plans but can extend to other operational elements such as employment conditions. Additionally, certification programs typically include traceability mechanisms to track materials from the certified forest through manufacturing of products. Verification of standard compliance is completed via third-party auditing.
Across the globe many different voluntary forest certification systems have emerged since initial inception. Several certification systems have mutual recognition policies, such as Europe’s Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and North America’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Other certification systems, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), operate individually without reciprocity.
In the continental U.S., there are numerous jurisdictions that mandate forest management practices through statutory requirements with subsequent enforcement and fines where practices are found to be not in compliance with the prescriptive regulations. The Oregon Forest Practices Act (FPA) is the statutory requirement in Oregon.
Both voluntary and mandatory requirements are above and beyond the minimum requirements for importing legal wood.
Markets and certification systems
Many forest markets expect or require certification for participation and transaction, while others do not. Access to these restricted markets necessitates some recognized form of certification. Beyond market access, certification permits an additional opportunity for participants to differentiate and market their products. In Oregon, four different certification systems are actively operating: Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), American Tree Farm System (ATFS), and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and most recently ASTM Responsible.
Supporting and preserving forests
The growth, manufacture, and sale of wood products is a competitive global enterprise. However, the international presence and administration of forests facing governmental regulatory standards that address management, harvest, and transactions varies widely both internationally and nationally; ranging from absent to comprehensive. Where this presence is absent or minimal, certification can be a meaningful mechanism to encourage responsible practices and or recognize and benefit practitioners of responsible forestry.
In an effort to support the competitiveness of Oregon wood products and maintain the value proposition for continued forestland presence, an
Executive Order was issued to promote forest sector diversification and advance market opportunities for Oregon grown wood. The Executive Order included an evaluation of the degree to which different markets and green building systems recognize Oregon grown wood. This work suggested that Oregon's uncertified forests and resulting products are disenfranchised in certain markets where certification is a requirement despite the presence of mandatory,
comprehensive forestry regulations. Based on report and independent evaluation of Oregon's forest practices relative to other certification systems, recommendations were made to certify Oregon grown wood subject to Oregon statute and rule. The
ASTM international standard relating to responsible wood was identified as meeting this need.
Responsible sourcing - ASTM standard
ASTM international is an internationally recognized transparent consensus based standard setting organization used to inform and bring standardization to global processes, procurement, and production. The
ASTM Standard D7612 was developed to differentiate global wood sourcing and to simplify the specification requirements for purchasing wood and wood-based materials. The standard recognizes three categories of wood products according to production criteria and meets criterion of international and market recognition.
ASTM D7612 - Wood and Wood Product Source Categories
Wood legally purchased
Wood legally purchased and produced according to a management standard which accounts for ecosystem in which it was produced
Wood legally purchased and sourced according to an internationally recognized certification entity (e.g. SFI, FSC, PEFC, etc.)
Forests certified a responsible source
The responsible source certification recognizes all Oregon forestland subject to the
Oregon Forest Practices Act (FPA) and other related statutes and rules. The FPA along with accompanying operational statutes and rules establishes obligatory requirements for all forest landowners and operators that conduct commercial activity involving establishment, management, and harvesting on Oregon forestlands.
The administration, education, and enforcement of the FPA in conjunction with federal and other state laws and rules address not only forestry, but other resource and social constructs. Establishing certification involved an external third-party audit by an accredited ISO 10765 product certification agency to review the FPA, supporting statutes and rules, and administration and enforcement. Manufacturers who procure Oregon timber harvested under the FPA rules can use the
PFS certificate to demonstrate compliance to ASTM D7612.
The ASTM D7612 Responsible Source Category is recognized by multiple organizations and standards based entities. Several sector parties that recognize the standard include but are not limited to:
- United States Green Building Council (LEED)
- United States Department of Agriculture BioPreferred Program, recognized in ASHRAE 189.1 and 2018 International Green Construction Code (IgCC)
- International Code Council 2015 International Green Construction Code (IgCC)
- International Green Construction Code (IgCC)
- (Pending) National Association of Home Builders/International Code Council/ASHRAE - 2020 National Green Building Standard (ICC-700)
Certification and utilization
Third-party certification to the ASTM Responsible Source designation across Oregon forestlands, manufacturers who source Oregon timber, and making appropriate product claims is a multi-tiered process. The Oregon Department of Forestry maintains certification of the standard across OFPA subject forestlands. Manufacturers and other processors seeking to mark or make Responsible product claims should seek the appropriate third party entity necessary for verification.
As ASTM Responsible certification is not a proprietary certification scheme, implementation and maintenance costs are comparatively low and participation is optional which allows forest sector members the freedom to evaluate, identify, and leverage certification based market opportunities accordingly.
Obtaining a timberland certificate
Methods to obtain a third party assessment for states, regions and ownerships considering ASTM D7612 certification of forestland (not applicable to production facilities):
- Voluntary guidelines: ODF developed voluntary guidelines for manufacturers and third parties to trace logs from the point of sale to production of wood or wood- based products. Manufacturers that voluntarily follow the guidelines under the oversight of an independent third party are eligible to label their product as coming from a responsible source.
- Findings of certification body: The certification body is not required to issue a public report (other than a certificate or listing), but documentation is required to substantiate the methods for certification. View the PFS certificate.
The timberland certificate should state that wood fiber removed from the state or region, subject to the rules as administered by the agency, is designated as a Responsible Source in accordance with ASTM D7612.
Selling responsible products
To sell products designated as a responsible source, a wood or wood-based product manufacturer must comply with three requirements:
They must purchase a reasonable quantity of timber that has been certified as responsible or certified sourcing per D7612.
They must have a third party verified, traceability procedure that tracks the timber purchases from D7612 legal, responsible or certified sources and avoids undocumented sources.
They must apply an on-product label or issue a certificate of compliance with a D7612 responsible sources claim. The overall quantity of responsible source claims must be proportionate to the quantity of responsible sourced timber that was purchased.
The proof of compliance to the three requirements are:
- A certificate for Oregon non-federal lands.
A manufacturer-specific third-party certificate verifying a traceability procedure.
A product label or certificate of compliance (as overseen by a third-party).
Voluntary rules for traceability from forest to manufacturer
The Oregon Department of Forestry sponsored an effort to create traceability procedures that could be adopted by Oregon forest products industries to support claims for responsible source consistent with ASTM D7612. The users of these traceability procedures would be audited against the traceability requirements by an accredited Certification Body (CB) before making a claim regarding their products as being from "Responsible Sources - Oregon."
- Traceability requirements for Oregon responsible resources (Link coming soon)
- Requirements for Oregon traceability audits (Link coming soon)