Costs and benefits of forest certification in the Americas
Forest certification provides a means to ensure that forests are managed to achieve economic, environmental, and social goals that are the foundation of sustainable forest management and sustainable development. We collected data on forest certification for the major systems in the Americas, including the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and the United States, and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) in the United States and Canada, Sistema Brasileiro de Certificação Florestal (Cerflor) in Brazil, and Sistema Chileno de Certificación Forestal (Certfor) in Chile. Reported average total costs varied considerably depending on forest ownership size, certification system, and country. Median average total costs ranged from $6.45 to $39.31 per ha per year for small tracts of less than 4,000 hectares. The large ownerships of 400,000 ha or more had median costs of $0.07 to $0.49 per ha per year. Mean costs were greater than median costs, due to large expenses for a few firms. Regression results indicated that average total costs for certification were a function of ownership size, but did not vary significantly among certification systems or country, although the sample of reporting firms was small for finding statistical differences. Opinions about benefits of forest certification generally classed firm strategic or management reasons highest, organizational learning factors second, signaling stewardship to external groups third, and improved prices or markets last, but all broad groups were considered important benefits of certification. The largest perceived disadvantages of forest certification were its time and audit costs, and no other disadvantage was rated more than somewhat important. Certified forest firms had relatively evenly mixed opinions about whether certification benefits exceeded costs, but a large majority stated that they would continue forest certification in the future.