Since the early 1990s, the concept of forest certification has become the subject of acute interest among nature conservation groups and forestry businesses alike. Several environmental and social organizations view this certification as an effective means to improve forestry practices in accordance with sustainable, integrated forest management approaches. Canada is a world leader in this area.


Situation of Canadian certification in the world in 2010


In Quebec, this trend has developed through the involvement of sector businesses wishing to practice sustainable and socially responsible forestry. It has also arisen in response to market imperatives, thus prompting companies to develop an environmental management system (EMS). In opting for one of the three existing certification standards, companies have had to significantly adapt their working methods to meet the high certification standards from a perspective of continuous improvement of forestry practices. The documentation of working procedures and the consultation of stakeholder groups are some of the recurrent steps related to certification.

What is certification?

The primary aim of forest certification is to make an impartial and voluntary assessment of sustainable forest management practices. Also, forestry companies have their processes certified on a voluntary basis with a view to improving continuous forestry practices. The various certification standards concern, especially, the main accepted criteria of sustainable development in relation to the social, environmental and economic dimensions, including:


  • Conservation of biological diversity;
  • Maintenance of wildlife habitats and diversity of species;
  • Protection or maintenance of sites of particular interest (biological and cultural);
  • Maintenance of soil and water resources, including areas adjacent to water courses and lakes;
  • Maintaining sustained levels of harvesting and regeneration of harvested areas;
  • Protection of forested areas from de-forestation and conversion to other uses;
  • Absence of timber from illegal or unauthorized sources;
  • Rights and participation of Aboriginal peoples;
  • Duty to consult and inform the population.

For each of these dimensions, the certification standards set high performance levels to be achieved, in excess of what is required under regulations. Even though forest certification is not mandatory, companies use it to demonstrate their commitment to the principles of sustainable forest management, thus maintaining access to certain markets that demand certification.

Three certification standards in Quebec

The norms set by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) are the result of a concerted initiative among stakeholders concerned with sustainable forest management in Canada. Across the country, the provinces have adopted stringent laws and policies in the area of sustainable forest management. This certification system is essentially based on sustainable development criteria identified by the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. Regional application of the CSA norms has brought additional criteria in terms of values, objectives, indicators and targets to be met. With a view to continuously improving performance in forest management and integrating the concerns of local stakeholders, certified organizations have organized other participatory sessions for members of the public concerned about their planning practices. Third-party evaluations also form part of the requirements of the standards.

Adapted from the Website: www.csa.ca/cm/ca/en/home

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was created by a representative group and includes various skills (environmental, social, lumber industry and forest sector groups). The FSC is a non-profit, non-governmental organization. It is an international organization that accredits certification bodies and supports national or regional standards based on 10 principles and 56 criteria that determine what constitutes sound forest management. The FSC is particularly focused on social aspects and the participation of local communities. The standards are developed by interested groups and are performance based. Above all, the FSC plays three important roles:

  1. Overseeing the approval of regional standards developed at the regional level with stakeholders and ensuring they reflect the FSC’s principles, criteria and policies;
  2. Accrediting registration organizations and third parties that are able to grant the FSC certificate to logging operations and chains of custody;
  3. Developing networks of supply and demand.

Adapted from the Website: www.fsc.org/certification.html


SFI Inc. is an independent, nonprofit organization that is solely responsible for maintaining, overseeing and improving the internationally recognized Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) program. Across Canada and the United States, more than 240 million acres (100 million hectares) are certified to the SFI forest management standard, the largest single forest standard in the world. The SFI program's unique fiber sourcing requirements promote responsible forest management on all suppliers' lands. SFI chain-of-custody (COC) certification tracks the percentage of fiber from certified forests, certified sourcing and post-consumer recycled content. SFI on-product labels identify both certified sourcing and COC claims to help consumers make responsible purchasing decisions. SFI Inc. is governed by a three-chamber board of directors representing environmental, social and economic sectors equally.

Adapted from the Website: www.sfiprogram.org/index.php

The benefits of certification

Certification programs offer an objective guarantee of responsible practices in sustainable forest management, while guiding consumers in selecting socially acceptable products. Verification audits carried out by an independent third party offer added value to consumers wishing to favour products derived from well-managed forests.

Balance sheet and importance of certification in Quebec’s publicly-owned lands


  • Gradual implementation of standards: FSC (1993), IFC (1994) and CSA (1996);
  • In 2002, first forest certification to be issued (FSC);
  • In 2003, appearance of SFI and CSA certifications;
  • From 2003 to 2010, certification gains in popularity, with territory covered by one of three international standards increasing from 14% to 73% ;
  • Projection for 2013: 87% of Crown land forest territory to be governed by certification standards;
  • Projection for 2015: certification of public land increases to 100%
Extent of certification in Quebec in 2010

Certification situation in Quebec in 2010
Mapping of certification in Quebec as per new forest regime in 2013

Future prospects

Certified forest areas have been growing annually in Quebec, as they have worldwide. The positions adopted by society on various environmental and social issues have prompted the development of supply and purchase policies centring on timber certification.

Given the forest industry’s commitment to forest certification, preserving access to timber from “certified” areas is a major issue in the changes planned for Quebec’s forest regime in 2013. Thanks to forest certification, many companies have developed or maintained market share.

In the QFIC’s view, full certification of private and public land is a realistic objective that positions Quebec’s forest industry as an undisputed leader in responsible forestry, while also serving to project an image of progressive forestry. In holding the distinction of being 100% certified, Quebec products can help position Quebec as a benchmark for certification, thus establishing a “Quebec 100% certified” seal of excellence.

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