Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)


Based on area coverage alone, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification is the world's largest forest certification system. It claims to be the certification system of choice for small, non-industrial private and family-owned forests.

PEFC seeks to transform the way forests are managed globally – and locally - to ensure that everyone can enjoy the environmental, social and economic benefits that forests offer.



PEFC has two membership categories:

1) National members are independent national organisations established to develop and implement a PEFC system within their country.

2) International stakeholder members are international entities including business associations – and to a lesser extent NGOs – committed to supporting PEFC's principles.


Members are represented in the General Assembly, the PEFC's highest authority.

The Board of Directors is the PEFC's second decision-making body.

The third and final EFC decision-making body is the Geneva-based Secretary-General's office.


The PEFC’s activities are financed almost entirely from membership fees.



PEFC allows the certification of individual products rather than whole brands, and as a result does not have a company membership option. PEFC has certified some 263,000,000 hectares of forest, making it the world's largest forest certification system.

This covers over 750,000 forest owners and over 16,000 companies with Chain of Custody certificates. See 2014 Annual Review


Member assessments:

On paper at least, PEFC has the most comprehensive range of standards of all forestry certification initiatives.

It is the only programme to require compliance with all eight of the ILO's core labour conventions

There is, however, no single, globally applicable code of conduct for PEFC-certified areas. Rather, PEFC combines International Sustainability Benchmarks derived from the International Organization for Standardization with National Standards during a consultancy period, which usually ends with a country-specific framework verified by a third-party accreditor.

PEFC's complex and at times opaque system of standardisation  is difficult to fully discern, with arguably greater weight given to the process of standard-setting over the normative focus of particular standards.



Systemic problems relating to auditing, governance and stakeholder participation have been cited in various critiques of PEFC.

Regarding governance, a Greenpeace report from 2011 states: “The PEFC system was established by the forest and wood products industry, and the governance structure reflects this with the balance of power sitting with industry representation”.

In the same report it is argued that the limited role given to NGOs vis-à-vis business associations in the International Stakeholder Members group has discouraged many environmentally focused NGOs from engaging with PEFC. The report also raised serious questions about PEFC's auditing procedure.


The WWF has found a lack of genuine stakeholder engagement in PEFC's decision-making process, citing also an imbalance in stakeholder representation; their analysis also criticised PEFC for not being transparent enough in relation to its auditing practices.

PEFC's decentralised structure, denoted by its National Governing Bodies, was also criticised for producing major inconsistencies between countries in relation to both the rigour of the certification process and the public availability of data.


Visibility: PEFC has a consumer-facing label displayed on products able to be traced back to certified forest areas. Its website contains detailed guidelines on the appropriate use of this globally recognised logo, which distinguishes between 'on-product' use for specific products traceable back to certified areas, and 'off-product' use, which allows companies to display the PEFC logo in annual reports, websites, et cetera.



Greenpeace's in-depth analysis of PEFC criticised the initiative for being selective in the kinds of information it shares with the public, and for offering sparse public summaries of individual forest management plans, which are essential for truly meaningful stakeholder involvement.

This sentiment was also reflected in the conclusions of the WWF report.





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