Sustainable Forest Management

Sustainable Forest Management

This benchmark lays out the international requirements for sustainable forest management.

It is these requirements that must be reflected in the national forest management standards submitted for PEFC endorsement. They constitute requirements for owners or managers applying for forest certification, as well as contractors and other operators operating in certified forests.

The PEFC General Assembly approved the revised standard on 14 November 2018.

Sustainable Forest Management, ST 1003 910.50 KB

What has changed?

Trees outside Forests in Thailand

For many stakeholders, especially small-forest owners, the most significant change is the inclusion of Trees outside Forests (TOF).This will make PEFC certification accessible to the millions of farmers and smallholders that do not own or manage forests, but rather trees on agricultural or settlement land that are currently outside the scope of certification.

We have expanded the social requirements, with greater inclusion of human rights, a stepwise approach to living wages (both migrant and local) and the promotion of gender equality. Working conditions shall now be regularly monitored and adapted as necessary, and employment policies must include equal opportunities and non-discrimination.

The revised document also includes a refined definition of ecologically important forest areas, supports climate positive practices and strictly limits the reforestation or afforestation of ecologically important non-forest areas.

Want to know more? Then make sure you listen to our recent webinars: the first one provides an overview of the changes to the benchmark, while the second one focuses in on the inclusion of Trees outside Forests.

Sustainable Development Goals

This new benchmark extends the impact of PEFC certification beyond forests and enhances its contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The inclusion of Trees outside Forests will help to increase income and productivity of agricultural land and agroforestry, especially in developing countries, reducing poverty (SDG 1) and hunger (SDG 2). It is also relevant for trees in cities and urban forests, with a positive impact on sustainable cities (SDG 11) and the well-being of urban populations (SDG 3).

Expanded social requirements will contribute towards decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), reduced inequalities (SDG 10) and gender equality (SDG 5). There are also enhanced provisions to safeguard the interests of indigenous peoples and the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of traditional and local knowledge (SDG 2 & 4).

The sharpened definition of ecologically important forest areas, references to the role of forests in providing ecosystem services, and the forbidding of reforestation or afforestation of ecologically important non-forest areas, all support life on land (SDG 15). While the climate positive practices support climate action (SDG 13).

The latest news

A permanent working group has been created in order to provide guidance on the implementation and interpretation of the revised Sustainable Forest Management and Group Certification benchmarks. This includes the continued development of our newly adopted approach of certification for Trees outside Forests, such as urban trees or agro-forestry.

This working group will meet two times a year, mainly in Geneva, Switzerland, but occasionally at other locations.

Revision timeline (completed)

  • 14 November 2018: PEFC General Assembly approved the revised standard
  • October 2018: Approval by the PEFC Board
  • July 2018: Sixth WG meeting - WG achieved consensus on the final draft
  • April - June 2018: Public consultation
  • March 2018: Fifth WG meeting
  • September 2017: Fourth WG meeting
  • March 2017: Third WG meeting
  • October 2016: Second WG meeting
  • May 2016: First WG meeting 
  • January – February 2016: Establishment of the Working Group


The revised PEFC Sustainable Forest Management benchmark standard was approved 14 November 2018.

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