Learning from the UK experience
It is worthwhile to have a closer look at how group certification operates in the UK.
Tilhill Forestry's certification and assurance manager Ewan McIntosh said that of the total UK forest area of 2.9 million hectares, some 1.6 million ha are certified. All of the state forests at 1.1 million ha are certified while 60pc of private forests or 0.5 million ha are certified. One group scheme covers more than 100,000 ha while another five group schemes have a certified area of over 10,000 ha each.
Mr McIntosh made the point that the UK is a small market place. This makes group certification schemes an effective model because of the economies of scale involved and the advantages of knowledge sharing.
The UK Woodland Assurance Standard called 'UKWAS' for short was launched in 1999. It is an independent certification standard for sustainable forest management meeting the requirements of both the PEFC and FSC schemes. UKWAS is a not-for-profit company, established by stakeholder members with a board and steering group. The standard is reviewed and revised every five years.
"Retaining a good economic, social and environmental balance is very important," he said.
The UK Woodland Assurance Standard is made up of eight sections covering a wide range of topics such as compliance with the law, woodland design, biodiversity and the forestry workforce. UKWAS operates a 'tick list' with 89 requirements. "It sounds like a lot but they cover all sins," said Mr McIntosh.
Tilhill's Group Scheme was launched in 1999 and currently covers 215,000 ha with another 20,000 ha in the pipeline. They offer two types of membership. 'Resource Managed' membership means that these 270 forests or 95,000 ha are managed by Tilhill. 'Group' memberships consist of 75 forests with a total area of 120,000 ha but are not managed by Tilhill.
Tilhill's Group Scheme has an annual production of 1.6 million