ISO goes green on sustainable forest management

by Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis on
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Sustainable forest management has become a critical global issue, with consumers increasingly demanding wood products supplied from “well-managed” forests. Environmental concerns, particularly the effects of illegal and indiscriminate logging resulting in forest disappearance, degradation and carbon emissions, have prompted ISO to start work on a new standard for the traceability of wood products. We asked Jorge Cajazeira, Chairman of ISO/PC 287 that is developing the future ISO 19228 standard, to tell us more.


Why is illegal logging such a big problem? How will the traceability of wood products help?

Very glad you asked. In a nutshell, illegal logging and deforestation affect the integrity and wellbeing of ecoystems and our society in many ways. First of all, they destroy biodiversity, since more than 50 % of species as we know it occurs in forest ecosystems.

In addition, illegal logging is linked to human rights violations and the displacement of people from their homes and culturally important territories. It causes severe land degradation and erosion, and increases natural hazards.

Equally important, illegal logging and deforestation can also increase greenhouse gas emissions, which worsens climate change and creates a more dangerous and difficult environment for people to live in. So it is vital that societies be assured that the wood forest products they are buying are not linked to the destruction of forests worldwide, but have their origin in sustainably managed forests.

Why did ISO create a committee on chain of custody of wood and wood-based products?

ISO/PC 287 was set up for three main reasons. First, to produce a standard that could unify the current standards on traceability of wood forest products and provide consistent information on the origin of timber. Second, to reduce the current cost of double or triple certification. And third, to increase the percentage of wood forest products traceable to their sources, essential for preventing illegal or controversial wood from getting into the supply chain of the forest industry.

What are your hopes for the future ISO standard? Any expected benefits?

The major benefit is clear. The ISO standard will enable companies to reassure their customers – and, indirectly, the global society – that the wood they are using is NOT coming from forests that are illegally harvested, degraded or deforested.

Our ultimate goal though is to develop a unifying standard that all forest companies can endorse to ensure the proper traceability of wood products, from the forest to the shelves of retailers and distributors around the world.

Several standards already exist for the supply chain of wood and wood products; how will the ISO standard be any different?

The current standards are both different and similar to one another. And that is where the problem lies. The current chain of custody (COC) systems only cover about 25 % of the productive forests around the world. Regions like Asia and Africa and the tropical forest industries, for example, are out of the scope of the current COC systems.

Our standard will balance the need for traceability with the requirement that all companies, no matter their size or the region in which they work, must be able to guarantee that the wood forest products they place on the market origin from sustainable source. But most notably, establishing a single standard will enable producers to manage their traceability systems in an efficient and transparent way and provide consumers with reliable and trustworthy information on the environmental and social integrity of wood products offered.