The Future of Forestry Certification: Struggles over Livelihood and Conservation

Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

Paul Ventura


Problem: Forest certification systems are now at a “crossroads” as they face uncertainty as a conservation tool that has become open to interpretation. The most credible forest certification system, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), has come under scrutiny from many Non-Governmental Organizations over the controversial issue of certifying large-scale plantations. Through the course of my practicum with Global Justice Ecology Project I had the opportunity to work closely with environmental NGOs on the international Stop GE Trees Campaign, which enhanced my understanding of the current threats facing the world’s forests. I developed the following research question as a result: What do some environmental Non-Governmental Organizations think about Forest Stewardship Council certification system? The literature review examines the current debates in the field on forest certification, and the sustainable development discourse, which guides the agenda and ideologies surrounding certification. Approach: I used Participatory / Advocacy as my paradigm because my research is action oriented and is geared at influencing the current situation of certification. I chose Grounded Theory as my approach because of my concern that the FSC label has become diluted and this inductive approach is intended for practical problems that are qualitative, exploratory, small-scale, and study the interaction between humans. I conducted five interviews with leaders from various NGOs; collected data on forestry statistics; and participated in an on-line list serve regarding FSC certification. Conclusion: I found that there are two issues challenging the credibility of FSC’s certification of large-scale plantations, (1) stakeholder involvement; (2) the alarming rate of tropical deforestation. I developed three recommendations to submit to the FSC on completion of my research project, which focus on enhancing training for participants, adopting partial certification of plantations and stricter standards regarding genetically engineered trees.


Forest Management

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