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Forest management certification in Canada

Approximately three-quarters of Canada’s managed Crown forest land is certified to at least one sustainable forest management (SFM) standard. In Canada, three organizations provide forest management certifications that evaluate commercial forestry operations against comprehensive environmental and social standards.

Value of forest management certification

Forest management certification offers benefits to:

  • forest companies seeking to demonstrate responsible resource management
  • consumers considering sustainably sourced forest products in their buying decisions

Forest management certification was adopted across Canada between the late 1990s and 2008, after which adoption continued to increase at a less rapid pace. Since 2013, certified forest area has stayed relatively steady, ranging from 153 million hectares (ha) certified to 170 million ha certified. As of 2021, 158 million ha of forests are certified.

Third-party forest management certification complements our comprehensive and rigorous forest management laws and regulations. It provides assurance that a forest company is operating legally, sustainably and in compliance with world-recognized standards.

Canada has the largest area of forests in the world that is sustainably managed with third-party certification, along with strong forest management governance. This supports our reputation for being a reliable source of legally and sustainably produced forest products.

Canada’s forest management certification systems

Three internationally recognized forest certification organizations are used in Canada:

  • the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
  • the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
  • the Canadian Standards Association (CSA)

Internationally, FSC Canada is recognized through FSC International. The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) endorses the SFI and the CSA systems. The PEFC is a global alliance of national forest certification systems that promotes sustainable forest management through independent third-party certification.

As of 2021, Canada has 164 million ha of certified forest land, or 36% of the world’s total certified forest area. For comparison, Canada’s total area of certified forest land is about the same size as the aggregate total area of France, Spain, Germany and the UK combined.

Separate from the three forest certification organizations described above, there is also a unique international certification scheme that is specific to woody biomass. The Sustainable Biomass Program provides assurance that woody biomass (such as wood pellets) is derived from legal and sustainable sources.

Certification systems and standards

Although the forest certification systems used in Canada differ, all are based on rigorous standards that reflect the principles of sustainable forest management.

According to the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, all three certification systems:

  • set high thresholds that forest companies must clear, in addition to Canada’s tough regulatory requirements
  • provide a stamp of approval showing customers they are buying products originating from forests that meet comprehensive environmental, social and economic standards
  • issue certificates only after a thorough review and determination of conformity with the standards by third-party auditors
  • are tailored to consider global forestry issues and circumstances specific to the Canadian landscape, such as the livelihood of local communities and the interests of Indigenous peoples

The standards on which forest certification is based are not static. Expectations of what certification should demonstrate are always changing. Certification standards are regularly revised to keep pace with new knowledge and emerging concerns about sustainable forest management. Additionally, new standards are developed to reflect changing market needs.

Each year, Natural Resources Canada publishes its State of Canada's Forests report, which tracks indicators pertaining to the certification of Canada’s forests and provides the most up to date statistics on forest certification in Canada. Read the report to learn more about Canada's efforts to protect the health of our forests.

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