Forest Certification In Russia

By the end of 2015, about 40 million hectares were certified, approximately 160 certificates were issued on forest management and 440 certificates on chain of custody. Despite the existing problems, certification remains one of the most important instruments for achieving sustainable forest management in Russia.By Victor Lukashevich, Ilya Shegelman, Aleksey Vasilyev and MariiaLukashevich, Petrozavodsk State University

Forestry must be based on the principles of sustainable forest management. Depletion of natural resources, including forests, during human history has caused crises in many countries and influenced settlement of people, agriculture, industry and international trade.

One of the first notes on the term ‘sustainability’ concerning forest management can be found in a book by Hans Carl von Carlowitz, who urged land owners to keep and grow forest to provide long-term and inexhaustible use of its resources and asked them not to cut trees every year, so that trees have enough time to grow.

The term ‘sustainable forest management’ began to be widely used in 1992 after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).

The following documents were published based on the results of the conference: ‘Non-legally binding authoritative statement of principles for a global consensus on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests’ and ‘Agenda 21’.

These documents specified the foundations of sustainable forest management. Then Ministerial Conference on the Protectionof Forests in Europe (MCPFE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defined sustainable forest management as ‘the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfil, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems’.

The conferences and negotiations resulted in the definition of international principles and criteria, observance of which would facilitate development of sustainable forest management. According to the principles of sustainable forest management, we should strive for such a way of conducting forestry in which a forest owner would not only earn an income but would also create conditions for maintenance of social sphere (hunting, fishing, gathering, tourism, employment of population) and would keep ecological values of forest areas.

An important condition of sustainability is continuity of forestry processes in a long-term perspective that ensures the next generation to be able to use resources at a forest territory.


Forest Certification

Forest certification is one of instruments that facilitates practical implementation of sustainable forest management. It began to be broadly recognised at the beginning of 1990s.

Introduction of forest certification systems was conductive to a new type of sustainable development institutions that differ from traditional processes of implementing policy. It was reckoned that forest certification is ‘one of the most innovative and startling institutional designs of the past 50 years’. It helps to achieve the goals of protecting and managing biodiversity, fighting illegal harvesting and supporting monitoring and certification of carbon absorption in future.

Forest certification is a procedure which evaluates the quality of forest exploitation according to the criteria of the standard. If the quality corresponds to the standard, an organisation managing forests might receive a certificate proving this.

The certification usually focuses on a system of forest management (FM) at a certain forest areaand a chain of custody (CoC) of forest products to consumers. Voluntary forest certification systems started to be developed both at international Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and national levels: SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative), CSA (Canadian Standard Association), American Tree Farm System (ATFS), Certification Florestal(CertFlor).



At present, the most widespread certification standards are PEFC and FSC.

The area of forests certified by PEFC makes 268 million hectares in 34 countries, from which Canada, the USA, and Finland are leaders. The number of certificates on FM issued by PEFC system in the world as of November 2015 was 1,260.

CoC by PEFC covers 65 countries (the leaders are France, Germany, and Great Britain) and about 10 thousand certificates were issued. The area of forests certified by the FSC covers about 184 million hectares in 80 countries, from which Canada is in the first position, Russia has the second highest area certified by FSC, and the US is in the third position.

About 1,200 certificates on forest management were issued by the FSC system in the world as of November 2015. About 29,000 certificates were issued on CoC in 112 countries (the leaders are China, the US, and Great Britain).

Both certification systems (PEFC and FSC) are used in Russia. As of November 2015, the area of forests certified by the PEFC was about 580,000 hectares (3 certificates) and 14 certificates were issued on CoC. At the same time about 40 million hectares in Russia were certified by the FSC system (about 113 certificates for 160 companies) and about 360 certificates were issued on CoC (for 440 companies).


Certification In Russia

Despite Russia’s leading positions in certification on FM, the development of CoC is progressing slowly. Russia takes the 19thplace by the number of CoC certificates. If we consider the ratio of the number of certificates on CoC to the area of certified forests, the position of Russia decreases to 33.

Since the FSC certification continues developing in Russia, there is a demand for auditors, and their number is expected to grow. Higher educational institutions introduced a subject that teaches the specific requirements of voluntary forest certification. Students get acquainted with certification procedures and can be involved in the work of forest management enterprises as both certification auditors and trainees at audits.

We found that the majority of problems concerned the detection of HCVF, development of EIA, detection of key habitats, and detection and conservation of representative samples of existing ecosystems within the landscape.

The most problematic HCVF for certified lumbermen are intact forest landscapes. This type of forests is not considered in the system of Russian forestry and is leased out for harvesting. To fulfil the requirements of the FSC standard, certified leaseholders must voluntarily resign their exploitation of such forests.

In fact, forest owners who excluded the HCVF from their management are less competitive than forest owners who did not do this. At the same time, there is no compensation mechanism supporting forest owners to treat HCVF in line with the standard. Environmental impact assessment is a new and a difficult task for most of leaseholders. This requirement is not included in the Russian forest legislation and lumbermen typically need to consult experts about how to comply with the standard’s requirements.

The organisation is expected to establish a network of representative samples of existing eco-systems within the forest area to be certified, which can provide the preservation of the diversity of landscapes, ecosystems, habitat types and local flora and fauna, what also requires experts’ support.

Identification and conservation of key habitats is another problem for forest users, mainly because of contradictions between the FSC standard and the Russian forest legislation. Specifically, abandonment of key habitats during clear-cut harvesting is a violation of wood harvesting rules in Russia. The costs of fulfilment implementation of the FSC standard also hamper the voluntary forest certification.

Practically all big timber processing companies of Russia certified their forests, however, for other lumbermen the procedure of certification still remains expensive, and this can drive small enterprises out of the market. This problem can be faced via group certification that unites small leaseholders. Not only leaseholders of forest areas but also forest owners must participate in the development of certification.

A Part of the certification requirements, especially those on the detection of HCVF or the analysis of representativeness of rare eco-systems in a forest area, could be carried out at the expense of the state. This would reduce the expenses on certification, which could be supportive mainly to small enterprises. There is also a problem with increasing shortage of timber for certified products.



Development Of Certifications

In order to raise economic security of a region, it is necessary to analyse the perspectives of development of certification within the region from the following viewpoints: the area of certified forests and volumes of their harvesting, the area of non-rented areas and areas that provide opportunities for harvesting, list of timber processing enterprises, and review of existing and potential consumers.

This information will allow to evaluate the progress of certified production in the regions; it will also allow improving economic security of the region by developing recommendations on optimization of supplies between manufacturers and consumers of certified products.

Despite the existing problems of development of certification in Russia, certification remains one of the instruments for achieving sustainable forest management, which means carrying out forestry activities with minimisation of environmental impact, keeping an opportunity to use all the good that the forests provide to the present-day generations for future generations.

On the one hand, voluntary forest certification favours the growth of ecological (conservation of biodiversity, rational use of forest resources) and social responsibility of forest users (preservation and security of traditional rights of population).

At the same time, certification also supports the economic efficiency. Year by year the demand on certified products is increasing, especially at ecologically-sensitive markets of the US and Europe.

As a result of the survey of the certified companies, the following positive moments of having a certificate were noted: improvement of company’s reputation, access to new clients and markets, rise in sale to existing clients, and retention of the market share.

Therefore, voluntary forest certification became a quite important factor, defining economic stability of forest exploitation of the country’s timber processing regions. In order to increase economic security of a region against the problems with export of forest production it is necessary to develop voluntary forest certification by means of a closer interaction in the field of forest exploitation among the state, business organisations and the public.

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