Forest to Floor Briefing No 2

Forest certification explained: Chain of Custody is not a substitute for Forest Management Certification

This briefing is designed to ensure that companies in the supply chain receiving plywood understand the function of different types of forest certification and what is required to demonstrate responsible production and certainty of the source of timber products.


Chain of Custody (CoC) certification has been mentioned in recent media reports regarding Sarawak forestry[i]. This type of certification is designed to ensure that the original source on the ground of the wood in a product is known to the end user, and that all the steps in between as that wood changes hands are documented.

This is one part of what responsible buyers need to know and be assured of. It is not possible to operate a responsible procurement policy without being assured of the origin and chain of custody of the product.

However, a Chain of Custody certification alone is insufficient.

Forest Management (FM) certification is vital to ensuring that unacceptable environmental and human rights impacts have not occurred in the logging, road-building and other forest management activities and ownership of the area where the forest was logged. This certification deals with the on ground management and impacts of the logging operations.

Only the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest management certification is regarded as acceptable by most environment and social justice groups, including Markets For Change and JATAN. Even so this certification system is not perfect, but is the best that currently exists.

PEFC certification is not of an equivalent standard, and regrettably accredits local certification schemes that are more a greenwashing exercise than any assurance of high standards. It is a serious mistake for companies to regard FSC and PEFC as equivalent standards for the purposes of procurement policy.

Regarding procurement from Sarawak, Malaysia we stress that no timber products originating in Sarawak are acceptable. They are all associated either with one or more of the following: corruption, illegal logging, human rights violations and environmental degradation. There are no FSC forest management certifications for Sarawak.

FSC forest management certification should not be attained by any Sarawak logging operations until the serious entrenched issues are properly addressed, and that is not currently envisaged. A proposal to certify logging in the Heart of Borneo was flagged last year but this is unacceptable. This area should be completely off- limits to any further logging. As we outlined in our ‘Forest to Floor’ Report the Heart of Borneo is a biodiversity hotspot containing 6% of the earth’s biodiversity and many endangered animals. It is subject to degradation and destruction by logging company incursions which continually violate the area. At this point it is no longer acceptable to undertake industrial logging in any forests within the Heart of Borneo.

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