Procedures for use of the certification standard
Certification bodies shall be accredited to undertake independent woodland management certification using the UK Woodland Assurance Standard by a national or international accreditation service that operates in accordance with ISO/IEC 17011 2004. Accreditation services should normally demonstrate this through membership of the European Co-operation for Accreditation (EA), the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) or the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance (ISEAL). Any accreditation service operating outwith the auspices of these representative bodies shall provide the UKWAS company with evidence of conformance with ISO/IEC 17011 2004. The accreditation service shall ensure that the certification body meets all the requirements of ISO/IEC Guides 62 and 65 as well as all the criteria which are explicitly part of the UK Woodland Assurance Standard.
The UKWAS company will challenge any use of UKWAS trademarks by certification bodies not accredited in this way.
Certification bodies shall have a formal dispute management procedure which is open to all parties at any time, to deal with non-conformance and challenges (ISO/IEC Guide 62:2.1.4; Guide 65:4.5 and the specific rules of the accreditation service). This procedure shall be implemented when it has not been possible to resolve challenges regarding a decision made by the certification body in an assessment against this certification standard. Information on how a decision was made must be made available by certification bodies on request in a way which does not breach commercial confidentiality.
If the UKWAS company is concerned with the way in which a certification body is using the UK Woodland Assurance Standard it shall raise a dispute through the certification body’s own procedure. If this approach fails to resolve the matter then the UKWAS company shall pursue it through the disputes procedure of the accreditation service. If this fails to resolve the matter it shall be taken up through the disputes resolution procedures of EA, IAF or ISEAL as appropriate. If the UKWAS company remains of the opinion that the UK Woodland Assurance Standard is misused it shall legally challenge the use of UKWAS trademarks by the certification body.
Defining the certification area
The areas to be certified to the UK Woodland Assurance Standard shall be individually identified and delineated woodland management units. The woodland management unit (WMU) is defined below and the requirements for management planning documentation are set out in section 2.1 of the certification standard. The WMU may include both woodland and areas dedicated to protection, conservation, buildings, infrastructure and non-forest vegetation. The owners/managers of each unit shall have made a formal commitment to meet the requirements of this certification standard.
Owners/managers are advised to seek guidance from their certification body or group scheme manager.
As parts of the certification process, auditing reports shall be subject to independent peer review by competent experts. Peer reviewers shall have access to all comments from the stakeholder consultations by the applicant and certification body together with an assessment of how they have been addressed.
Certification to the UK Woodland Assurance Standard shall be subject to periodic monitoring and review. Certification is normally valid for up to five years and is subject to periodic surveillance to ensure continued conformance with the certification standard. Surveillance shall be undertaken at a frequency and sampling intensity appropriate to the scale and intensity of management of the site. This leaves scope for an alternative approach to be considered in relation to small and low intensity managed woodlands. The expectation should be of an annual review (ISO/IEC Guide 65) but an annual site visit may not be mandatory in all cases. Re-assessment shall be carried out at least every five years.
Certification to the UK Woodland Assurance Standard shall provide an opportunity for, and take account of, inputs from stakeholders. Responsibility for undertaking consultation lies with the applicant in accordance with the requirements of this certification standard. The applicant shall invite consultees, through direct communication and public notification, to copy their responses direct to the certification body. Where this is undertaken as an integral part of a wider consultation, such as by a government department, there would be no requirement to present a copy to the certification body, provided that the information is available to the public. As part of the evaluation process, each time a certificate is issued or renewed, it shall be the responsibility of certification bodies to assess and verify stakeholder comments using appropriate sampling, independent of the applicant’s own procedure. Feedback shall be provided by the certification body, on request, to respondents on how their comments have been addressed.
The process of certification to the UK Woodland Assurance Standard is transparent and includes the production of an informative, publicly available summary for each certificate. The summary shall provide information on how and why the certification decision was made, to allow stakeholders to see for themselves what happened. This should include an explanation of how any areas of non-conformity with the requirements of the certification standard have been addressed to the satisfaction of the certification body, and a clear statement of any outstanding conditions which need to be addressed.
Flexibility in meeting requirements
It is recognised that some woodland owners and managers may feel that certain requirements are not appropriate to their situation. Some flexibility to allow local adaptation may therefore be acceptable under the following conditions:
- Either it is not physically possible to achieve the requirement in the woodland or the approach taken is an equally or more effective way of achieving the objectives intended by the certification standard
- The impacts of the action are carefully monitored.
The certification body carrying out the audit will make a professional judgement as to the acceptability of the flexibility, and may consult appropriate specialists or the UKWAS Steering Group (see section 5: Interpretation and revision of the certification standard).
Timing for full implementation of the requirements relating to woodland structure and layout
A special feature of woodland management is its long-term nature. Decisions made in the past have a strong influence on the woodlands of today.
Therefore, when assessing conformance with the certification standard, certification bodies will not evaluate woodlands solely on the present structure and layout, but will consider the plans for management in the short, medium and long term.
Where present structure and layout fail to meet the requirements, woodland owners/managers will need to demonstrate through management planning documentation, design plans and on-going activities in the woodland that they are taking active measures to achieve conformance with the requirements. They will also need to demonstrate that there is a time frame for achieving full conformance based on sound management principles. Further guidance on how non-conformities are dealt with can be obtained from certification bodies or group scheme managers.
The woodland management unit
The woodland management unit (WMU) is the area to which the management planning documentation relates – see section 2.1 of the certification standard. A WMU is a clearly defined woodland area, or areas, with mapped boundaries, managed to a set of explicit long-term objectives.
For example, a WMU might be a single ownership incorporating several areas of woodland that are managed within a woodland management plan; several separate ownerships managed within a woodland management plan; a community-managed forest; a management subdivision of a national forest service such as a forest district covered by a woodland management plan.
Note: The terms ‘woodland management unit’ and ‘forest management unit’ are synonymous.
Application of the certification standard to different scales of woodland management unit and intensities of operation
The level and complexity of management needed to meet the requirements of the certification standard will depend on the size and type of the woodland management unit being audited. In undertaking their assessment, certification bodies will take account of the size of the woodland and the scale and intensity of management and operations – see the glossary for a detailed definition of ‘Small and/or Low Intensity Managed’ (SLIM) woodland. For some requirements, SLIM woodlands are not expected to need the same level of documentation or management systems and procedures as are normally used for larger or more intensively managed woodland areas.
Many of the requirements in the certification standard, particularly those relating to woodland design, woodland operations and conservation, relate to proportions of the overall woodland area. In applying the requirements, an approach must be adopted which allows the woodland owner/manager to achieve the requirement in a way that is best suited to the characteristics of the woodland and conforms to the spirit of the certification standard.
Cases may arise which are not covered by this guidance. Such cases will be assessed by the certification bodies on a case-by-case basis and, if necessary, referred to the UKWAS Steering Group (refer to paragraph 5 below).
Parkland and hedgerow trees
Parkland and hedgerow trees may be included in a certificate provided that the owner/manager has a written policy and plans for managing them.