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Comparing Sustainable Forest Management Certifications Standards: A Meta-analysis

Michael Rawson Clark, University of Alberta
Joelyn Sarrah Kozar, Campus Sustainability Coalition


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To solve problems caused by conventional forest management, forest certification has emerged as a driver of sustainable forest management. Several sustainable forest management certification systems exist, including the Forest Stewardship Council and those endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, such as the Canadian Standards Association Sustainable Forestry Management Standard CAN/CSA - Z809 and Sustainable Forestry Initiative. For consumers to use certified products to meet their own sustainability goals, they must have an understanding of the effectiveness of different certification systems. To understand the relative performance of three systems, we determined: (1) the criteria used to compare the Forest Stewardship Council, Canadian Standards Association Sustainable Forestry Management, and Sustainable Forestry Initiative, (2) if consensus exists regarding their ability to achieve sustainability goals, and (3) what research gaps must be filled to improve our understanding of how forest certification systems affect sustainable forest management. We conducted a qualitative meta-analysis of 26 grey literature references (books, industry and nongovernmental organization publications) and 9 primary literature references (articles in peer-reviewed academic journals) that compared at least two of the aforementioned certification systems. The Forest Stewardship Council was the highest performer for ecological health and social sustainable forest management criteria. The Canadian Standards Association Sustainable Forestry Management and Sustainable Forestry Initiative performed best under sustainable forest management criteria of forest productivity and economic longevity of a firm. Sixty-two percent of analyses were comparisons of the wording of certification system principles or criteria; 34% were surveys of foresters or consumers. An important caveat to these results is that only one comparison was based on empirically collected field data. We recommend that future studies collect ecological and socioeconomic data from forests so purchasers can select certified forest products based on empirical evidence.

Key words

Canadian Standards Association Sustainable Forestry Management; CSA-SFM; forest certification; Forest Stewardship Council; FSC; meta-analysis; public forests; SFI; sustainable forest management; Sustainable Forestry Initiative

Copyright © 2011 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087