Is Forest Certification Necessary, an Analysis of Substantive Practices and Public Participation?
The decision to adopt forestry certification is a critical one for many companies. Certification can result in increased costs that are not always compensated when products come to market. However, certification has been shown to result in substantive improvement in sustainable forest practices in areas with limited forest practices regulations. Thus, forest certification may offer a landowner the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability through two methods. In areas where there is a lack of protective measures generated by the state, certification offers landowners an opportunity to comply with a higher level of protection found in the certification scheme. In areas where the legitimacy of the state government is uncertain or weak, then certification may provide additional validation of the company’s commitment to sustainable practices.
The substantive and procedural components of California state forest practices rules along with the Forest Stewardship Council’s certification (FSC) system were compared to demonstrate the decision environment encounter by companies considering forest certification. Six substantive practices were selected to demonstrate sustainable practices. Procedural legitimacy, the fairness of public participation was the measure of the quality of governance of the two systems.
The results showed that California exceeds the most of substantive forest practices, only buffering riparian areas when compared with the Pacific Coast Standards for FSC Certification. Both systems have a formal public notification and review of complaints; however, the sovereign power of the state ultimately allows complaints to be evaluated by an independent judiciary that is not available in a private system.