Forest certification is a voluntary, market-based instrument designed to improve forest management by enabling buyers to identify timber products derived from wellmanaged forests. While small forest enterprises make an important contribution to the forest industry in many countries, they have found forest certification difficult to achieve. There has thus been a recent movement to make certification more accessible to small forest holdings and low/intermittent volume producers. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has launched “group certification” and the Indonesian Ecolabelling Institute (LEI) has developed Pengelolaan Hutan Berbasis Masyarakat Lestari (PHBML) specifically to promote community-based forest management. These two programmes can be viewed as part of a range of initiatives that seek to improve forest management by providing opportunities and benefits to local communities.

This study contributes to independent monitoring and comparative assessment of forest certification schemes. It assesses the credibility of the two certification programmes operating in Indonesia that are suited to community-based forest management – FSC group certification and PHBML – using the Forest Certification Assessment Guide (FCAG) developed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)/World Bank Global Forest Alliance. Having more than one certification programme could encourage competition that leads to improved
performance, but it also raises concerns about efficiency and redundancy.

This assessment has found that both FSC group certification and PHBML meet almost all the FCAG requirements for independent verification for improved forest management. Both programmes share a large degree of similarity in that they:

  • Were developed through multi-stakeholder processes and according to international frameworks;
  • Attempt to place a balanced emphasis on the three pillars of sustainability;
  • Have measurable standards, are performance-based and are applicable to the FMU (forest management unit) level;
  • Provide for the equitable participation of diverse stakeholders;
  • Have mechanisms and procedures to control the use of their logos and have chain of custody (CoC) standards; and
  • Require a set of contractual arrangements between the owners and the certificate holder.

As is to be expected of a national standard, in some areas LEI provides more specific guidance to forest managers and auditors than the FSC generic forest management standard, though Forest Certifi cation for Community-based Forest Management in Indonesia there are some areas where LEI certification processes could be strengthened. Overall, LEI provides a credible certification option yet does not enjoy the same market recognition and acceptance as FSC. In some cases, the support organisations that have assisted communities in acquiring the certification of their forest management against the PHBML standard are now targeting FSC certification of these same forests because of greater demand for the FSC label.

To overcome this limited recognition, LEI needs to adopt more assertive strategies to educate potential buyers that its certification programmes meet international benchmarks. LEI could explore the options of mutual recognition and membership with international accreditation bodies, and could promote its strengths to international buyers better by continuing to strengthen the English version of its website. It could also promote its certification as meeting the requirements of public timber procurement policies for legal and sustainable wood products. Other roles that LEI is well-positioned to fulfil include developing standards for the certification of REDD (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries) projects, and promoting forest certification as a REDD strategy.

The complete study available to download (PDF 1 Mb)