The two major systems for forest certification are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). This table is not meant to be an
exhaustive comparison. A list of references to more detailed comparisons can be found "Additional Resources".


Established in 1993 at the initiative of environmental organizations. Founded in 1999 in Europe, as an endorsement mechanism for independent, national certification systems.

Basic Principle


FSC is a system of national and regional standards consistent with ten principles of SFM that cover the following issues:

  1. Compliance with laws and FSC principles
  2. Tenure and use rights and responsibilities
  3. Indigenous peoples' rights
  4. Community relations and workers' rights
  5. Benefits from the forests
  6. Environmental impact
  7. Management plans
  8. Monitoring and assessment
  9. Special sites – high conservation value forests (HCVF)
  10. Plantations

These principles were developed by a global partnership of stakeholders convened by FSC. The principles apply to all tropical, temperate and boreal forests and are to be considered as a whole. All national and regional standards are derived in-country from the ten principles. The principles are expected to be used in conjunction with national and international laws and regulations, and in compatibility with international principles and criteria relevant at the national and sub-national level (FSC Policy and Standards; principles and criteria of forest stewardship) (FSC, 1996, amended in 2002).

There is variation in regional standards and in interim standards adopted by auditing bodies.

PEFC is a mutual recognition mechanism for national and regional certification systems. PEFC’s environmental, social and economic requirements for SFM build on international guidelines, criteria and indicators for SFM derived from intergovernmental processes such as the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE), and the African Timber Organization (ATO) and International Tropical Timber Organization’s (ITTO) processes for tropical forests among others. PEFC’s SFM standards cover the following aspects:

  1. Maintenance and appropriate enhancement of forest resources and their contribution to the global carbon cycle
  2. Maintenance and enhancement of forest ecosystem health and vitality
  3. Maintenance and encouragement of productive functions of forests (wood and no-wood)
  4. Maintenance, conservation and appropriate enhancement of biological diversity in forest ecosystems
  5. Maintenance and appropriate enhancement of protective functions in forest management (notably soil and water)
  6. Maintenance of socioeconomic functions and conditions
  7. Compliance with legal requirements

Endorsed certification systems are assessed to be consistent with international agreements such as ILO core conventions, as well as conventions relevant to forest management and ratified by the countries, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), CITES and others.

All national PEFC standards are independently assessed to ensure that they meet PEFC International’s Sustainability Benchmarks. There is some variation with standards exceeding these requirements (PEFC, 2010).

Components, members, extent

All component standards carry the FSC brand. National initiatives for forest management certification exist in Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belarus, Belize, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Denmark, Ethiopia, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Swaziland, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zambia . There are also FSC chain of custody certificates in a number of additional countries. 165 million ha have been certified under FSC (as of October 2010).
(FSC website, October 2012).
PEFC endorses certification systems once they have successfully gone through the external assessment process using independent evaluators. Endorsed SFM standards can carry their own brand names. Endorsed standards include the following: Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil (Cerflor), Canda (CSA, SFI), Chile (Certfor), Czech Republic, Denmar, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malaysia (MTCS), Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States (SFI, American Tree Farm System). There are also PEFC chain of custody certifications and PEFC stakeholder members in a number of additional countries. 254 million ha have been certified under PEFC (as of October 2012) (PEFC website).

Stakeholder scope

FSC is a multi-stakeholder owned system. All FSC standards and policies are set by a consultative process. Economic, social, and environmental interests have equal weight in the standard settint process. FSC follows the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards. (FSC website). Multi-stakeholder participation is required in the governance of national schemes as well as in the standard-setting process Standards and normative documents are reviewed periodically at intervals that do not exceed five years. The PEFC Standar Setting standard is based on ISO/IEC Code for good practice for standardization (Guide 59) and the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards (PEFC 2010A).

Chain-ofcustody (CoC)

  • The CoC standard is evaluated by a third-party body that is accredited by FSC and compliant with international standards.
  • CoC standard includes procedures for tracking wood origin.
  • CoC standard includes specifications for the physical separation of certified and non-certified wood, and for the percentage of mixed content (certified and non-certified) of products.
  • CoC certificates state the geographical location of the producer and the standards against which the process was evaluated. Certificates also state the starting and finishing point of the CoC.

(FSC policy on percentage-based claims, and various FSC guidelines for certification bodies)

  • Quality or environmental management systems (ISO 9001:2008 or ISO 14001:2004 respectively) may be used to implement the minimum requirements for chain of custody management systems required by PEFC.
  • Only accredited certification bodies can undertake certification.
  • CoC requirements include specifications for physical separation of wood and percentage-based methods for products with mixed content.
  • The CoC standard includes specifications for tracking and collecting and maintaining documentation about the origin of the materials.
  • The CoC standard includes specifications for the physical separation of certified and non-certified wood.
  • The CoC standard includes specifications about procedures for dealing with complains related to participant’s chain of custody.

CoC certificates state the geographical location of the certificate holder; the standard against which the certificate was issued, and identify the scope, product(s) or product(s) group(s) covered (PEFC, 2010B).

Inclusion of wood from noncertified sources

FSC’s Controlled Wood Standard establishes requirements to participants to establish supply-chain control systems, and documentation to avoid sourcing materials from controversial sources, including:
  1. Illegally harvested wood, including wood that is harvested without legal authorization, from protected areas, without payment of appropriate taxes and fees, using fraudulent papers and mechanisms, in violation of CITES requirements, and others.
  2. Wood harvested in violation of traditional and civil rights
  3. Wood harvested in forests where high conservation values are threatened by management activities
  4. Wood harvested in forests being converted from forests and other wooded ecosystems to plantations or nonforest uses
  5. Wood from management units in which genetically modified trees are planted (FSC, 2006)
The PEFC’s Due Dilligence system requires participants to establish systems to minimize the risk of sourcing raw materials from:

(PEFC, 2010B).

  1. forest management activities that do not comply with local, national or international laws related to:
    • operations and harvesting, including land use conversion,
    • management of areas with designated high environmental and cultural values,
    • protected and endangered species, including CITES species,
    • health and labor issues,
    • indigenous peoples’ property, tenure and use rights,
    • payment of royalties and taxes.
  2. genetically modified organisms,
  3. forest conversion, including conversion of primary forests to forest plantations.


Requires third-party verification.                                                 Requires third-party verification.