India drives forestry through PEFC

India has become the latest country to achieve endorsement of its national forest certification system by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forect Certification (PEFC).

“PEFC endorsement is a landmark achievement for India, as we have long felt the need for such a country-specific and internationally benchmarked forest certification system,” said Mr Vijai Sharma, Chairman of the Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF).

 “Our newly endorsed national system will allow Indian forest managers to further strengthen their sustainable forest management practices, in line with global standards and multilateral requirements,” Sharma added.

The NCCF joined the PEFC alliance in 2015 and submitted the national system to PEFC for endorsement in 2017. The system was developed through a multi-stakeholder group, including forestry professionals, representatives from government, forest corporations, conservation organisations and industry bodies.

NCCF is committed to developing globally-aligned, country-specific certification systems and standards for enhancing sustainability and market access to goods and services from forests and trees outside forests.

Many benefits

“Forest certification has been accepted as an efficient tool for sustainable forest management around the world. Given that the forests of India serve important ecological, economic and social functions and provide livelihoods to over 275 million people, we should utilise certification for sustaining and enhancing these roles of forests,” said Mr A.K. Srivastava, NCCF’s Executive Director.

Realising the importance of forest certification, India’s Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change has called for buying products made from certified wood only, in order to promote sustainable forest management.

Forest-based industries also see significant benefits in the PEFC endorsement.

“Forest-based industries in India have been pushing for forest certification to enhance their access to international markets,” said Mr Sachin Raj Jain, Convener of NCCF.

“Our PEFC endorsement will help us make the Indian wood- and forest fibre-based industry more competitive globally through the production of certified products,” he added,

As the development of a national forest certification in India nears completion, the 2017 PEFC Collaboration Fund is helping to raise the profile of forest certification and grow the market for certified products within India.

The forestry sector plays a vital role in India, contributing to revenue generation, employment and foreign exchange. The paper industry alone accounts for over 2.5% of the world’s paper and employs more than a million people in the country.

However, the lack of certified forests, and therefore the lack of certified forest-based products, acts as a trade barrier to companies throughout the supply chain, particularly when exporting these products to Europe and North America.

At the same time, the demand for certified products within India is low. This is in part due to the shortage of certified timber, but also due to limited awareness amongst both retailers and the public.

The Indian national forest certification system, which was developed by a multi-stakeholder group led by the NCCF, was launched in early 2018. Once endorsed by PEFC, the country’s forest owners will be able to achieve certification and gain access to international markets demanding certified products.

Better awareness

However, there is also a clear need to increase awareness about forest certification and develop the market for certified products within India. This will help to ensure demand for certified timber and other forest products once the first forest owners achieve their PEFC certification.

The PEFC Collaboration Fund is supporting NCCF as they launch their initiative to raise the profile of forest certification and develop the market for certified products in India.

To ensure their work is effective, NCCF will begin the project with market analysis research before conducting a stakeholder mapping exercise to identify potential industries and sectors to target.

The second phase of the project will focus on strengthening partnerships. This will include liaising with government agencies in order to promote sustainable public procurement of PEFC-certified products within the country.

They will also target the Indian branches of global brands that are already PEFC-certified, as well as one-on-one meetings with mapped stakeholders.

The third aspect of the project is capacity building. An online discussion forum will complement a series of seminars and workshops aimed at several major sectors, such as furniture, pulp and paper, rubber, plywood and packaging.

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