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Revised standards approved by the PEFC General Assembly

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Three standards that further strengthen PEFC’s Sustainability Benchmarks and assist in safeguarding forests globally have been approved by the PEFC General Assembly. The revised standards, which govern chain of custody certification, trademark use, and conformity assessment, will enter into force on 14 February 2020.

Most notable are changes to the chain of custody standard, specifically the expansion of the definition of controversial sources.

Chain of custody establishes the link from the forest to the market, tracking forest based material from sustainable sources to the final product. The Chain of Custody standard lays out the requirements that a company must meet to achieve PEFC chain of custody certification. This includes requirements to avoid ‘controversial sources’ – material not to be used in certified products.

The updated definition of controversial sources now incorporates additional sustainability requirements, enabling companies along the entire timber value chain, including those far removed from the forest, to help promote responsible forestry beyond the purchase of certified wood.

The updated definition requires companies to avoid material originating from unsustainable activities, including those where:

ecologically important forest areas are not identified, protected, conserved or set aside;

the spirit of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) is not met;

forest conversions occur;

forest management does not contribute to the maintenance, conservation or enhancement of biodiversity on landscape, ecosystem, species or genetic levels; and

the capability of forests to produce a range of wood and non wood forest products and services on a sustainable basis is not maintained or harvesting levels exceed a rate that can be sustained in the long term

Genetically modified trees, as well as conflict timber, is also not allowed.

Certified companies continue to need to implement requirements relating to health, safety and labour issues that are based on ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

The new trademark standard, which replaces the PEFC Logo usage rules, strengthens the consistent use of PEFC trademarks worldwide, while also making it easier for consumers to understand what the PEFC logo stands for.

Importantly, it requires companies to use the PEFC Label Generator, a free and easy to use online tool that enables the quick creation of PEFC trademarks, to ensure alignment with the requirements.

Also, the trademark standard introduces the new claim ‘100% PEFC Origin’, which is only available for products that contain 100% material from PEFC certified forests that has been physically separated from any non certified wood a company may be using.

Auditors are now subject to additional training requirements for conducting PEFC chain of custody certification. This further safeguards the integrity of the conformity assessment process, and ensures that specifics concerning PEFC requirements, including eg the expanded definition of controversial sources, international conventions on worker’s rights and labour contracts, or collective bargaining agreements, are accurately verified.

In line with the PEFC’s commitment to gender responsive standards, certification bodies now need to consider gender equity within the personnel involved in the certification activities.

The Next Steps

The three standards were approved by the PEFC General Assembly on 17 January 2020, and they will enter into force 14 February 2020, replacing the previous versions. There is an 18 month transition period, after which all users of the standards will need to be in line with the latest requirements.

More information regarding the transition to the latest versions of these standards will be provided shortly.


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