Do you know how PEFC is governed?

Our governance is bottom up, which means it is our members who make the key decisions through a balanced voting system. This enables us to build on our national members’ local expertise, complemented by the experiences of internationally active organizations.

This unique structure allows for ethical and responsible decision-making that incorporates the combined experiences and knowledge of all stakeholders at national and international levels, including individuals on the ground as they are represented through our national members.  

Our commitment to participation, democracy and equity is a critical and central element within the governance of our organization. We have three decision-making bodies: the General Assembly, the PEFC International Board and the Secretary General

PEFC General Assembly, November 2018, Geneva

PEFC General Assembly

The General Assembly is our highest authority and decision-making body. It is made up of all PEFC members, including both national and international stakeholder members with voting rights, and extraordinary members as observers. 

The General Assembly votes on the key decisions of our organization, such as new members, statutes and budgets. It is also responsible for the endorsement of national forest certification systems (after they have successfully completed the assessment process), and the formal approval of international standards.

All national members have between one and seven votes, depending on their membership fees, while the international stakeholder members have one vote each.

A delegate represents every PEFC member, and they all have the right to introduce items to the agenda of the work of the General Assembly or the PEFC International Board. Once a year the General Assembly meets in person, this is usually in November during the PEFC Forest Certification Week. The next PEFC Week takes place in Würzburg, Germany, 11-15 November 2019.

PEFC International Board meeting, November 2018

The PEFC International Board

Our Board supports the work of the General Assembly and the organization as a whole, and is accountable to all members. 

Board members are elected for a 3-year term and one third of the Board members are eligible for re-election in any one year. 

The composition of the Board should aim to reflect the major interested parties who support PEFC, the geographical distribution of members, the diversity of their annual cutting categories and an appropriate gender balance.

The Nominations Committee

The Nominations Committee is responsible for proposing a list of candidates to fill the vacancies within the PEFC International Board.

Bill Street, member of the Nominations Committee

Every year, we invite PEFC members to nominate candidates for the Board. The Nominations Committee guides our members by advising them on what qualifications and experience are sought from the nominees.

Once the members have submitted their nominees, the Nominations Committee is responsible for considering the nominations and proposing a list of candidates to fill the vacancies within the Board. This includes the Chairman, Vice Chairs and Board members. This list is proposed to, and voted on by, the PEFC General Assembly.






From 12 to 81: the story of PEFC membership & governance

PEFC is much more than just the secretariat in Geneva. We are an alliance of national forest certification systems, NGOs, labour unions, businesses, trade associations, forest owner organizations and committed individuals. Together, we work towards our vision of a world that values the contribution of sustainable forests to our planet and our lives.

Our members are a vital part of the PEFC alliance. From the 12 founding members, to the current 81 members (51 national and 30 international stakeholder members), representing several hundred national stakeholder groups, we have grown and become global. But how have we got to this point – and how has it changed the very nature of PEFC?

Our founding members: forest owners

In 1999, 12 organizations came together to create PEFC. These organizations represented forest owners in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. 

Soon joined by organizations from other European countries, and then globally, these are our national members (also known as National Governing Bodies). They are independent, national organizations responsible for developing and running the national forest certification system within their country. 

One of the distinct characteristics of our national members is that they have the support of their country’s forest owners. Forest owners and managers are important stakeholders as they are responsible for implementing forest management requirements and pursuing certification. It is therefore essential that they are supportive of, and involved in, the national process. This is why we require that our national members obtain their support. 

National members manage “everything PEFC” within their respective country, as well as providing support to the PEFC-certified companies and forest owners. They can range in size from one person to a large team, but all of them are dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management within their country and globally. Meet our national members.

The early years: engaging the forest sector

It was soon clear that other organizations supporting the objectives of PEFC wanted to be involved, leading to the creation of extraordinary members. With this, we moved beyond our initial focus on forest owners, offering stakeholders from the entire forest sector the opportunity to become directly involved with PEFC. 

Organizations admitted into membership at this stage were the Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF), European Confederation of Woodworking Industries (CEI-Bois), European Landowners’ Organisation (ELO), European Timber Trade Association (FEBO) and Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI).

Achieving maturity: implementing multi-stakeholder governance

In 2008, it was time for a change. We appointed expert consultants to help undertake a comprehensive governance review with stakeholders worldwide. As a result, and in order to encourage a broader range of stakeholders to participate in the PEFC governance process, we introduced the international stakeholder member category. This enabled us to engage international actors for whom it is difficult to get involved at local and national level. 

The birth of international stakeholder membership represented a fundamental change in how PEFC was governed. But not only that: it changed the very nature of PEFC. 

Ten years on, there are 30 international stakeholder members from around the world - an integral part of the PEFC alliance. They include organizations, associations and international companies whose principles and objectives are in line with our own. These members perform a vital role in supporting the work we do. Meet our international stakeholder members.

PEFC today: a joint effort

Accepting international stakeholders into PEFC membership fundamentally changed our own understanding of ourselves. PEFC was no longer only about forest owners delivering a service to society. We became a joint effort of everyone interested in promoting sustainable forest management. 

Today, stakeholders of all realms of life not only participate in the development of our standards, but also in PEFC as a global association. They share their knowledge and offer a helping hand in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of our organization, and actively contribute to the governance of PEFC.


Small-forest owners at the heart of PEFC

As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we have spoken a lot about the importance of small-forest owners. They are the reason we were created. But how do we ensure that they can access certification?

The answer is group certification. Group certification enables small-forest landowners to group together and organize themselves, pool their resources and work as a team to achieve certification. This makes PEFC certification affordable and practical for smallholders.

Around one million small-forest owners have achieved PEFC certification through group certification, and the number continues to grow. This is a testimony to the fact that forest certification is possible for small landholders, and that it is a powerful and cost-effective way of promoting forest conservation and sustainable management.

See how group certification works….

But developing the group certification mechanism is just the starting point

Through our Collaboration Fund and other PEFC initiatives, we continue to invest in projects and activities that support smallholder certification through engagement, innovation and capacity building. From South Africa and Portugal, to New Zealand and Nepal, our projects cross the globe. See all our smallholder projects…

We are also developing tools, such as certification for Trees outside Forests. This enables smallholders growing trees outside of forests, such as on agricultural land or within settlements, to achieve certification and take advantage of the benefits it brings.

It is vital that smallholders are able to gain PEFC certification for their sustainable practices. However, with 25% of forests owned by families and communities, it is important for the world too. In fact, in many of the countries striving to establish or expand certified forest area, small landholdings represent a significant share of the forest resource.

Smallholders at our heart, forever

In the 20 years since we were created, we have continually strengthened our approach. An approach that has been adopted by increasing numbers of stakeholders, making PEFC today the world's largest forest certification system. 

But while we continue to grow, we have never forgotten our roots. We are, and will always be, the certification system of choice for small forest owners.

20 years of caring

From July to June, there will be many opportunities to get involved in our celebrations. 

Later this year, we will launch our #myPEFCmoment campaign, and everybody can take part. Just take a picture of the PEFC label on a product, share it online with the hashtag #myPEFCmoment and win fantastic prizes!

The hashtag #20yearsofcaring provides a collection of activities of PEFC members and stakeholders around the world.


PEFC’s story, the early years

The creation of PEFC in June 1999 was a turning point for small-forest owners in Europe. It marked the start of an international forest certification system that put their needs first, enabling them to achieve certification and access demanding markets. But it wasn’t long before forest owners outside Europe could also benefit… 

As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, over the next few months we’re going to be taking a look at our history. Today it is our early years.

After the establishment of PEFC in June 1999, we needed an office and to decide which country we would be based in. Luxembourg was chosen, and within a year, the PEFC Secretariat office was up and running and the small team had got to work. In order to communicate to the PEFC members and the wider forestry sector, the first PEFC newsletter was released in March 2000 – take a look! And not to forget, back then we were called the Pan European Forest Certification (PEFC) Council.

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An important milestone came in May 2000 as Finland, Sweden and Norway became the very first countries to achieve PEFC endorsement of their national forest certification systems. This meant forest owners, large and small, could gain PEFC certification of their sustainable forest management practices. Combined, 18 million hectares of forest area were PEFC certified (and now we’re at over 300 million!).



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              PEFC General Assembly, Luxembourg, 2000

Following in the footsteps of forest management was PEFC Chain of Custody certification, the vital link between the forest and consumer. The development of the rules for the verification of chain of custody of wood was launched in Segovia, Spain, in March 1999. The PEFC General Assembly unanimously adopted the rules in February 2000, laying the way for PEFC-certified products on the marketplace.

In 2001, we incorporated the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions into our guidelines on standard setting. These guidelines set the requirements for how countries must develop their national forest management standard. This change put labour rights into the heart of our standards, something that continues to be important to us now and in future. Take a look at our latest Sustainable Forest Management benchmark standard, in which we have further expanded the social requirements. 

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A significant development came early in 2002, as we launched our first online interactive database. Through a new website, customers now had easy access to information about the origins of timber carrying the PEFC logo. Interested in seeing how things have changed compared to our current Find Certified database? We’ve found the original instructions from 2002!

It was only two years since our launch, but by 2001, we already had a member outside Europe: Canada. This was followed swiftly by Australia, Brazil, Chile and Malaysia, all joining the alliance in 2002. Clearly, we were no longer European, so we needed to change our name. In 2003, we became the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. 

Stay tuned to learn about more milestones in PEFC’s history!