Chain of Custody Certification

Sustainably managed forests are those whose management implements performance standards based on internationally agreed environmental, social and economic requirements that form the cornerstones of sustainability. Although many forests are sustainably managed, the only way to provide credible proof of this is through independent checking.

Therefore someone who is independent, qualified and impartial - a certifier - needs to check that the forests are managed on the ground according to these cornerstones and other key elements such as international conventions including the International Labour Organisation (ILO) core conventions. This is called forest certification.

Chain of Custody certification

Chain of Custody certification is an assessment from an independent, qualified and accredited expert who verifies in writing that the wood flow accounting system applied by an enterprise to trace the flow of wood from certified forests through the enterprise, meets the exacting requirements of the certification scheme.

A wood-processing enterprise, business-to business customer/supplier, trader or retailer who has put in place an independently certified wood flow verification system can reassure customers that its product sources are verifiable. The chain of custody certificate and associated documentation will inform the customer on, the next enterprise in the chain, about the proportion of wood in the products from certified sources.

To make the system work effectively for all in the industry, your enterprise should also have a certified chain of custody. Any enterprise interested in using a product label showing that their wood has come from a certified forest must have implemented and be using an independently certified system to monitor the origin of the wood.

The wood's origin can be traced in two different ways: by using a so-called percentage model (based on inventory control and the accounting of wood/material flows) or by physical segregation of wood. These can be applied to a batch of products, a single production unit or the operation of a whole enterprise.

Checking by an independent body

Certification of both forest management and chain of custody must be carried out by an independent, technically competent and impartial certification body. All certification bodies certifying against PEFC schemes meet international requirements for certification bodies which are defined by ISO (International Standardisation Organisation) documents. These standards (ISO Guide 62, 65, 66) define the:

•certification body's structure and its external relationships, 
•rules for selection of competent auditors and technical experts, 
•certification procedures including decision making process, 
•rules for complaints, appeals, disputes, etc.

The certification body's compliance with these stringent requirements is verified through an accreditation process. This accreditation is carried out by national accreditation bodies which are fully independent from the PEFC Council and PEFC schemes and follow internationally recognised rules for accreditation defined by the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO Guide 61). The same arrangement and procedures are applied in the case of all credible, third party certifications such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and others.

Internationally applied standards for certification and accreditation and multi-lateral agreements between national accreditation bodies facilitated by IAF (International Accreditation Forum) or similar regional organisations assure that certificates issued by certification bodies in different countries are equivalent.

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