Forests area: 264 million ha
Forest owners: > 750,000
Companies (CoC): 15,804
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an ambitious framework to enable businesses to monitor and communicate positive contributions across all areas of sustainable development. PEFC’s Sustainable Forest Management benchmarks are closely aligned with the SDGs but impact on several in particular. Click on the boxes above to find out more...
Poverty is more than the lack of income and resources to ensure a sustainable livelihood. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.
Forests and trees are vital sources of income, livelihoods and well-being for rural populations, particularly indigenous people, smallholders, those living in close proximity to forests and those who make use of trees outside forests. The sale of forest products provides households with cash, while forests and trees provide wood fuel, fodder, building materials, food, medicinal plants and other products collected freely for a variety of uses.
Specific criteria in PEFC’s Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Standard - PEFC ST 1003-2018 – states that forest management activities shall be conducted in recognition of the established framework of legal, customary and traditional rights such as outlined in ILO 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and protect sites with recognised specific historical, cultural or spiritual significance. Forest management provides effective communication and consultation with local people and other stakeholders relating to sustainable forest management and provides appropriate mechanisms for resolving complaints and disputes relating to forest management between forest operators and local people.
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries can provide nutritious food for all and generate decent incomes, while supporting rural development and protecting the environment but our soils, freshwater, oceans, forests and biodiversity are being rapidly degraded.
Forests contribute directly to food security by providing food and dietary diversity, supplying wood energy for cooking food and enhancing the resilience of the ecological and social systems surrounding agriculture. Foods from forests – such as leaves, seeds, nuts, fruits, mushrooms, honey, insects and wild animals – provide dietary diversity. Since trees are often more resilient to adverse weather conditions than agricultural crops, forest-based food items also serve as an important safety net in times of crisis and emergencies.
PEFC requires that the capability of forests to produce a range of wood and non-wood forest products and services on a sustainable basis shall be maintained. As a pre-requisite, harvesting levels of non-wood forest products shall not exceed a rate that can be sustained in the long term thus the use of non-wood forest products, including hunting and fishing, shall be regulated, monitored and controlled. The inclusion of Trees outside Forests (TOF) in our latest sustainable forest management standard makes PEFC certification accessible to the millions of farmers and smallholders that do not own or manage forests, but rather trees on agricultural or settlement land that were previously outside the scope of certification.
Health is a good measure of the progress of nations in achieving sustainable development. It contributes to national development through productive employment, reduced expenditure on illness care and greater social cohesion. By promoting good health at all ages, the benefits of sustainable development extend across generations.
Forests and trees supply an abundance of ecosystem services that help in creating healthy living environments and in restoring degraded ecosystems. For many rural populations, non-wood forest products can provide the essential nutrients needed for good maternal and child health. Medicinal plants found in forests plus forests mitigate floods, droughts and the effects of noise, maintain water quality and soil fertility and help stem erosion. Woodlands and trees have a positive impact on air quality, provide recreational, cultural and aesthetic services. In cities, green spaces and urban parks improve mental and physical health and well-being. Wood products and natural materials can also boost recovery rates in healthcare environments.
PEFC certification promotes Sustainable Forest Management and all the benefits derived from that, including non-wood forest products and ecosystem services. In addition, there are specific PEFC requirements concerning pesticides. Generally, integrated pest management and silviculture alternatives are preferred to minimise the use of pesticides and their use must be documented and WHO Class 1A and 1B pesticides and other highly toxic pesticides are prohibited.
Education is crucial to improving people’s lives and sustainable development and are key to allowing many other SDGs to be achieved. When people have access to a quality education, they can break from the cycle of poverty, help to reduce inequalities, promote gender equality and are empowered to live healthier and more sustainable lives. Education and capacity building can also provide technical skills and knowledge on agroforestry, bioenergy and forest management.
It is important to communicate to society at large, and younger generations in particular, the importance of the forestry and forest-based industries, while showcasing their innovative and sustainable character. This includes knowledge of and awareness about the role of forest and wood products in carbon storage. Education is also about the appreciation of cultural diversity and contribution to sustainable development.
PEFC contributes to education and capacity building on all levels, from forest management to the supply chain to consumers all over the world. PEFC certification contains a range of requirements to improve the capacity and understanding of forest workers and affected communities. PEFC requires continuous training in relation to sustainable forest management to forest managers, contractors, employees and forest owners. Training and capacity building are also integral to our requirement that sound economic performance shall be pursued, taking into account possibilities for new markets and economic activities in connection with all relevant goods and services of forests. PEFC contributes to research activities and data collection needed for sustainable forest management and supports relevant research activities carried out by other organisations.
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work and representation in political and economic decision-making processes, fuels sustainable economies and benefits society.
Reducing gender inequalities and mainstreaming gender in the forest sector requires measures to address structural gender disparities and inequalities, and to promote women’s full participation and leadership in decision-making processes. In many countries, the link between poverty, gender and sustainable forest management is a critical issue. Forest managers must be committed to equal opportunities and non-discrimination. Furthermore, special consideration must be given to new opportunities for training and employment of local people – men and women alike.
PEFC certification promotes gender equality and the role of women in forestry through a variety of requirements and processes. PEFC was the first global forest certification system to require compliance with all fundamental ILO conventions, including ILO No. 111 on Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention. Additionally, through provision for effective communication and consultation with local communities in regards to sustainable forest management, PEFC certification provides a forum that better enables women to participate in forest decisions. Finally, further down the value chain, we require that certified companies to demonstrate their commitment to equal employment opportunities and treatment.
Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in and there is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this. At the current time, more than 2 billion people are living with the risk of reduced access to freshwater resources and by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water.
Water security is dependent on forests. Yet because of the complex nature of forests, the ecosystem services they provide – especially water-related services – are often misunderstood, undervalued, and therefore overlooked. Forests and trees are integral to the water cycle: they regulate the flow of water in streams and rivers, contribute to the quantity and quality of groundwater, and contribute to cloud generation and precipitation. They also act as natural purifiers and water quality affects biodiversity, wildlife and the land surrounding water bodies.
PEFC’s Sustainable Forest Management benchmark is dedicated to the protective functions of forests, including water and soil. In PEFC-certified forests, these protective functions, including flood prevention and water purification must be mapped, and forest management plans and operations must ensure that they are maintained and enhanced. Special care must be given to forestry operations in areas where operations might lead to excessive erosion of soil into watercourses. In addition, PEFC certification requires that special care shall be given to forestry operations in forest areas with water protection functions, such as watersheds, to avoid adverse effects on the quality and quantity of water resources.
Focusing on universal access to energy, increased energy efficiency and the increased use of renewable energy through new economic and job opportunities is crucial to creating more sustainable and inclusive communities and resilience to environmental issues like climate change.
Forests and trees provide wood fuel for cooking, heating and industrial needs, and by protecting watersheds to enable hydropower generation. Wood fuel plays a critical role in ensuring access to affordable and reliable energy by providing basic energy services to about 2.4 billion people worldwide; one-third of the world’s population. In developed countries, it is assumed that close to 90 million people use wood fuel as their main source of heating (mainly in Europe, but also in North America). Wood fuel therefore makes a significant contribution to energy provision and contributes to renewable energy through electricity generation and co-generation.
A fundamental principle of PEFC certification is that it requires that forest management maintains or increases forests and their ecosystem services, as well as the economic, ecological, cultural and social values they provide. Furthermore, the capability of forests to produce wood on a sustainable basis must be maintained, ensuring that harvesting levels do not exceed a rate that can be sustained in the long term. PEFC certification requires that the protective functions of forests for society, such as their potential role in climate regulation and carbon sequestration and other regulating or supporting ecosystem services, must be maintained or enhanced.
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Sustainable economic growth will require societies to create the conditions that allow people to have quality jobs that stimulate the economy while not harming the environment. Job opportunities and decent working conditions are also required for the whole working age population.
Forests and their value chains are of critical importance for sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, especially in remote rural areas. Still characterised by high informality and with a strong presence of small and medium-sized enterprises as well as family labour, the forest industry can have an important impact on improving working conditions and alleviating poverty if employment is increased and the quality of job posts improved.
Since its creation in 1999, PEFC has placed emphasis on promoting and securing decent jobs, with a focus on family, small- and medium-sized businesses. In addition to requirements concerning compliance with core ILO conventions, several other provisions in PEFC’s sustainable forest management standard deal with job-related issues, requiring safe working conditions, working hours, minimum wages as well as equal opportunities, non-discrimination and freedom from workplace harassment. Another potentially important source of economic income is sustainable tourism, which calls for adequate public access to forests for the purpose of recreation. For certification to work for smallholders as well as small- and medium-sized enterprises, PEFC created Group Certification – this allows participants to spread the costs, share the administration and organisational procedures and provide economies of scale.
More than half of the world’s population now live in urban areas. By 2050, that figure will have risen to 6.5 billion people – two-thirds of all humanity. Although cities cover less than 3% of the global terrestrial surface, they account for 78% of carbon emissions, 60% of residential water use and 76% of wood used for industrial purposes. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban spaces.
Urban forests and trees can have positive impact on urban dwellers’ livelihoods and wellbeing. They contribute to the protection of cities’ local cultural and natural heritage by enhancing communities’ sense of place, providing settings for recreational and physical activities, increasing aesthetic appreciation of the surrounding environment, inspiring artistic expression and fostering local tourism.
Sustainable timber is the only mainstream renewable construction material available on a large scale. With the 2018 revision of PEFC’s sustainable forest management standard, we now enable cities to certify urban trees and parks, making it possible for them to provide assurances to their inhabitants that city trees are managed sustainably and raising awareness of the tremendous services that trees in cities provide to urban populations.
The potential that certified wood from sustainably managed forests offers in re-shaping how cities are being built cannot be underestimated. An increasing number of building projects are now opting for PEFC-certified timber, and both public authorities and private companies are choosing to work with wood. PEFC Project Chain of Custody certification promotes the use-certified timber and engineered wood products which enables building designers and construction companies to demonstrate responsible sourcing.
There needs to be significant focus on involving everyone from producer to final consumer on patterns of behaviour. This includes educating consumers on sustainable consumption and lifestyles, providing them with adequate information through standards and labels and engaging in sustainable sourcing and procurement.
Renewability, resource efficiency and responsible sourcing of forest products are central to sustainable production and consumption given the wealth of benefits forest can provide. Responsible production and consumption of forest products already exist. Paper and wood, for instance, can be reused, in turn reducing the volume of virgin wood fibre needed to produce wood-based products. Sustainable packaging made of wood waste and residues are a green alternative for materials such as plastics. In construction, wood has been found to have lower embodied energy than comparable building systems using concrete, steel or masonry. The forest industry also produces second generation biofuels and bio-based materials that can substitute fossil-based fuels and products. However, sustainable production can only succeed if accompanied by positive changes in the consumption patterns and lifestyles of households and governments.
PEFC works along the entire value chain – from the forest to producers to consumers and end users – to promote sustainable production and consumption. Our sustainable forest management standard, implemented by around one million foresters globally – provides assurances that their forests are managed sustainably. Thousands of companies around the world are PEFC Chain of Custody certified. We also work with numerous companies and public institutions to promote sustainable procurement policies for timber products including drivers of the circular economy – reduce, reuse, recycle.
A successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society. These inclusive partnerships built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the centre, are needed at the global, regional, national and local level.
Partnerships are integral to forest management on all levels. On an operational level, forest owners and community forest associations share experiences to deliver the highest standards of sustainability, silviculture, environmental practice, forest operations and workforce safety. On a political level, numerous partnerships and initiatives exist to promote sustainable forest management and to combat deforestation. This includes the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) and Forest Europe, a collaborative partnership on forests – a voluntary arrangement among 14 international organisations and secretariats with substantial programmes on forests. There is also the New York Declaration on Forests, a partnership of governments, multinational companies, civil society and indigenous peoples.
PEFC in itself is a partnership for the goals – an organisation that brings together some fifty national forest certification systems and more than 30 international stakeholders. National certification systems themselves are multi-stakeholder partnerships with the objective of promoting sustainable forest management. One of the most overlooked benefits of forest certification is the role of organisations such as PEFC as a facilitator – our standard setting processes have been bringing together tens of thousands of stakeholders from governments, the private sector and civil society to agree on a common understanding of sustainable forest management at global and national levels.
PEFC sustainable forest management requirements bring together stakeholders impacted by forest management operations, requiring effective communication and consultation of forest managers with local communities, indigenous peoples and other stakeholders. An important part of PEFC’s work is delivered through projects and initiatives, undertaken in close cooperation with partners around the world. We use projects to build capacity, improve market conditions for certified products and develop solutions to further advance sustainable forest management.
To find out more about the UN SDGs visit: