Assuring compliance with our standards
In Australia, 30 Forest Management and more than 250 Chain of Custody certificates have been issued as part of the Responsible Wood certification scheme, representing more than 94% of all Australian commercial forests.
All certificate holders need to be verified before they can receive their Responsible Wood and PEFC certificates and all need to be visited annually to make sure they continue to meet our standards. On any given day, around 50 audits take place globally.
Separation of roles
There is a common understanding that a system owner cannot issue certificates as this creates a conflict of interest: the system owner may like to issue as many certificates as possible. For that reason, we rely on independent third-party certification bodies to check for compliance and provide the Responsible Wood certificate.
Third party certification
Before a certificate is issued to a forest owner or supply chain company, the CB will perform an audit to verify that all Responsible Wood and / or PEFC requirements are met. For forest management certification the audit includes stakeholder consultation, and the audit report needs to be publicly available.
During the audit, the CB may find that certain requirements are not met and they will issue a nonconformity. We require that all nonconformities are solved before a Responsible Wood and / or PEFC certificate is granted.
Once a certificate is issued it will be valid for maximum of three years for a forest management certificate and five years for a chain of custody certificate. During the validity, the CB will visit the certificate holder annually for a surveillance audit to ensure that the Responsible Wood and / or PEFC requirements continue to be met. After three or five years the certificate can be renewed following a successful re-certification audit. Again, all nonconformities must be solved before the certificate is renewed.
The last element of our assurance system is the oversight of certification bodies, called accreditation. Accreditation is carried out by an accreditation body (AB). For Responsible Wood JAS-ANZ is recognised as the AB for forest management standards in Australia and New Zealand. Like a certification body checks a company meets the PEFC standard, the accreditation body checks that a certification body meets specific PEFC and ISO requirements. Through the accreditation process we have assurance that certification bodies are independent and impartial, that they follow our certification procedures and that they employ competent auditors.
At Responsible Wood we do not have our own accreditation body. Like with the majority of ISO based certifications, we rely on national ABs like JAS-ANZ under the umbrella of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF). National ABs need to be a member of the IAF, which means they have to follow IAF’s rules and regulations. Like this, we even have a mechanism for overseeing accreditation bodies.
With this approach, PEFC is the only global forest certification system that uses a truly independent oversight mechanism. The difference may seem insignificant, but where the oversight body and the system owner are not sufficiently independent, and the oversight body is not accountable to anyone, there is a risk of politically motivated decisions being made.