Background and Purpose
The international timber products market frequently demands assurance about the quality and environmental and social impacts of woodland management. One way to provide this assurance is through independent verification against a published certification standard which defines appropriate and effective management. In forestry, this process is known as sustainable forest management certification or simply forest, or woodland, certification.
The UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS) is an independent certification standard which sets out the requirements which woodland owners and managers and certification bodies can use to certify woodland management in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK). The certification standard is developed through an inclusive and transparent process which has involved a balanced representation of stakeholders from the UK forestry and environmental community.
Primarily, the certification standard is designed to reflect the requirements set out in the governmental UK Forestry Standard and thereby the General Guidelines adopted by European Forestry Ministers at Helsinki in 1993, the Pan-European Operational Level Guidelines (PEOLG) subsequently adopted at Lisbon in 1998 and other relevant international agreements.
In response to the demand from the UK forestry and forest products sector, the certification standard is also designed to reflect the requirements of the two leading global forest certification schemes – the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC). Products certified through these schemes are in much demand in the UK and global timber market as they provide a widely recognised way to inform customers that timber products come from responsibly managed sources.
The UK arms of FSC and PEFC take responsibility for submitting the UKWAS standard to their international parent bodies for assessment and provided the UKWAS standard is judged to be conformant with each scheme’s requirements it will provide a certification standard for certification through each of these schemes. A list of certification schemes that currently use the UK Woodland Assurance Standard as the basis for certification in the UK can be found on www.ukwas.org.uk.
The UKWAS recognises that one of the strengths of UK woodland management is its diversity. Therefore, there is broad scope within the certification standard for owners and managers to decide on appropriate objectives for their woodland. The certification standard generally prescribes what must, overall, be achieved but leaves it to the owner/manager to decide how this is best done in each situation.