Timber accreditation schemes are failing to protect tropical forests, according to campaign group Global Canopy.
The NGO said firms should not rely solely on such schemes but should introduce their own robust traceability systems to track timber, pulp and paper to their forest source, which would also provide more flexible sourcing options.
Based on analysis of Global Canopy’s Forest 500 ranking of producers, processors and retailers, the NGO said 80% of companies with timber and/or pulp and paper sustainability policies used Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) schemes.
But almost all of the forests covered by these schemes are found in Europe and North America and not in the tropical countries where most deforestation takes place.
Global Canopy said firms using FSC or PEFC schemes did not need to know the source of timber and paper products because neither of the schemes required this information.
Michael Guidon, project manager at Global Canopy, said:
“A growing number of companies involved in timber and pulp and paper have made commitments to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains.
“But these companies can only achieve that goal if they know the source of their timber. Global tropical deforestation is rising, with serious consequences for the climate, and yet neither certification or traceability are being implemented in the most important countries.”
Global Canopy said adopting sourcing policies based on sustainability principles, rather than just excluding materials based on certification schemes, could support smallholder suppliers and help promote more responsible forest management.
In 2016 more than 5bn cubic meters of timber and 800m tonnes of pulp and paper were produced globally, according to Global Canopy. Almost half the timber came from China, the US, India, Brazil, Russia, Canada and Indonesia.
Tropical forest countries produce less than a third of the global supply of timber, pulp and paper but most deforestation occurs in these regions, with around 7m hectares of forest loss annually between 2000 and 2010, driven mainly by agriculture and illegal logging. In 2013, an estimated one-third of timber produced in nine tropical countries was harvested illegally, said Global Canopy.
There are more than 50 forest management certification schemes but FSC and PEFC are the two largest and most recognised. In 2016 around 10% of global forests across 82 countries were certified under FSC or PEFC, while 84% of certified forests were located in Europe and North America.
Global Canopy said Indonesia produced 135.8m cubic meters of timber annually but it had a certified forest area of 4.7m hectares and was losing 0.7% of its woodland each year.
In 2016 31 Forest 500 firms had zero deforestation commitments, a figure that has more than doubled since 2014.