Forest Certification in Amazonia: Standards Matter
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification promises international consumers that 'green-label' timber has been logged sustainably. However, recent research indicates that this is not true for ipê (Tabebuia spp.), currently flooding the US residential decking market, much of it logged in Brazil. Uneven or non-application of minimum technical standards for certification could undermine added value and eventually the certification process itself. We examine public summary reports by third-party certifiers describing the evaluation process for certified companies in the Brazilian Amazon to determine the extent to which standards are uniformly applied and the degree to which third-party certifier requirements for compliance are consistent among properties. Current best-practice harvest systems, combined with Brazilian legal norms for harvest levels, guarantee that no certified company or community complies with FSC criteria and indicators specifying species-level management. No guidelines indicate which criteria and indicators must be enforced, or to what degree, for certification to be conferred by third-party assessors; nor do objective guidelines exist for evaluating compliance for criteria and indicators for which adequate scientific information is not yet available to identify acceptable levels. Meanwhile, certified companies are expected to monitor the long-term impacts of logging on biodiversity in addition to conducting best-practice forest management. This burden should reside elsewhere. We recommend a clarification of 'sustained timber yield' that reflects current state of knowledge and practice in Amazonia. Quantifiable verifiers for best-practice forest management must be developed and consistently employed. These will need to be flexible to reflect the diversity in forest structure and dynamics that prevails across this vast region. We offer suggestions for how to achieve these goals.