Forest certification has developed as a way of demonstrating the implementation of sustainable forest management practices. To have a forest certified as being sustainably managed, an audit is undertaken by an independent third-party certification body. The audit assesses the forest management practices of a forest manager or owner against the standard for certification. Both native forests and plantations can be certified.
The two major global forest certification bodies are the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) schemes and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Both the PEFC and FSC are internationally recognised forest certification networks that provide recognition of regional and national standards that meet their criteria for sustainable forest management.
The Australian Government acknowledges internationally recognised forest certification schemes that provide for legal and sustainable forest management. In Australia, forest managers and owners have the option of certifying their forests under the FSC, or the Responsible Wood Certification Scheme which is recognised under the PEFC. The Responsible Wood Certification Scheme uses the Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) as the relevant standard for certifying forest management, and is administered by Responsible Wood. FSC certification in Australia is administered by FSC Australia.
In 2011, about 10.7 million hectares of native forests and plantations were certified in Australia. Currently, 26.7 million hectares are certified under the Responsible Wood Certification Scheme and 1.2 million hectares are certified under the FSC. Some forests can be certified under both schemes.
Wood and wood-based products sourced from certified forests can also be tracked (via labelling) through the supply chain using chain-of-custody certification provided by both forest certification schemes. This provides consumers with an assurance that the wood product they are purchasing comes from a sustainably managed and certified forest.