PEFC standards, who writes them?

From the requirements that companies must meet to achieve PEFC chain of custody certification, to the specific steps stakeholders must take as they develop their national forest certification system, our standards are vital to the functioning of our organization. But who is responsible for developing them?

The answer to this might not be what you think. It is not PEFC that develops the standards, but multi-stakeholder working groups. These working groups build consensus, relying on the involvement of active and committed individuals from different interest groups. PEFC’s role is essentially limited to coordinating these working groups.

But why do we do it like this? We need to ensure that the wealth of knowledge, interests, experience and expectations that exists can be captured when developing a standard. Suggestions and ideas need to be challenged and discussed.

What works for one interest may not be practicable or agreeable to another. By bringing together a diverse group of people that must work together to build consensus, we can ensure that our standards meet the many expectations placed upon them, and that they integrate the best available knowledge.

Forming the working groups
How a working group is formed is important, and we do it as open and transparent as possible. To start, everybody can nominate a representative to be in a working group. This helps to provide for a wide range of candidates for the group. The PEFC Board of Directors then selects the members from the nominations received, based on what skills and expertise needs to be represented in the working group – this is different for different standards.

To ensure that no single concerned interest can dominate the process, all working groups have balanced representation of interested stakeholders, including geographical representation. Stakeholder categories within the working groups are derived from the major groups outlined in the UN Agenda 21 (Business & Industry; NGOs; Scientific & Technological Communities; Farmers & Small Forest Landowners; Workers & Trade Unions; Local Authorities; Indigenous People; Women; and Children & Youth).

Going further, we refine the desired composition of a working group and require at least the following stakeholder categories to participate:

Certified PEFC scheme users (e.g. forest owners and managers, forest based industry)
Uncertified PEFC scheme users (e.g. certification bodies)
Customers and consumers (e.g. retailer organizations, consumer organizations)
Civil society (e.g. science, environmental, social and other interest groups)
PEFC National Governing Body members
This ensures there is always a balanced group of interests around the table, taking into account the key stakeholders affected by the standard in question.

What does PEFC do?
Our role at the PEFC International office in Geneva is to coordinate the work of these working groups, providing organizational and administrative support. The role of the PEFC Board of Directors and the PEFC General Assembly is limited to the formal approval (or rejection) of the standard.

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