The contradictions of forest certification in the promotion of sustainability

04 November 2010

This presentation summarizes the formation and growth of forest certification and illustrates how it qualifies sustainability and leverages meaningful changes in forest management. Consumer demand seems to have played little direct role in the growth of forest certification. Instead, environmental campaigns and corporate interests in protecting brands drove the adoption of certification among buyers of forest products. Forest certification puts the responsibility for forest protection on forest managers, but has no mechanism to reward them for doing so. Most certification systems posit an almost magical connection between consumers and producers, but the political economies of markets and the strategic actors within them affect the outcomes of certification systems. The partly successful struggle of a consortium of Mexican community forest enterprises to mobilize certification as part of a broader competitive strategy demonstrates the value of certification for leveraging sustainability.