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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

What does FSC forest certification contribute to biodiversity conservation in relation to national legislation?

Lehtonen, Emily; Gustafsson, Lena; Löhmus, Asko; von Stedingk, Henrik


Forest certification has emerged as a voluntary, market-driven tool for sustainable forest management (SFM). Its legitimacy depends on its ability to achieve its objectives and to retain the support of stakeholders such as NGOs and the companies that adopt it. This study presents a novel approach for assessing the contributions of forest certification to biodiversity conservation, based on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification in four northern European countries (Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia). In each case, national FSC certification requirements related to specific biodiversity targets were compared with requirements in national legislation. Nearly 80% of the assessed certification requirements were more prescriptive than the national legislation. One-third of these requirements (3–8 per country) were assessed to have a positive contribution to biodiversity conservation, whereas four requirements (up to 2 per country) were assessed to have a low positive contribution. FSC requirements to protect Woodland Key Habitats were identified as having a positive contribution in all four countries, whereas requirements regarding live tree retention in harvests and preserving dead wood had a positive contribution in three countries each. Despite often prescribing similar measures, the other requirements with positive contributions varied between countries depending on the national legislative baseline. The remaining requirements could not be assessed through expert evaluation, indicating the need for additional empirical research to evaluate how the normative requirements translate to impacts in the field, and how the national context may affect their implementation. The approach is globally applicable, repeatable, and provides a basis for designing systematic empirical assessments of the certification impact.


Conservation legislature; Environmental labelling; Habitat protection; FSC certification; Impact assessment; Sustainable forest management

Published in

Journal of Environmental Management
2021, Volume: 299, article number: 113606

    SLU Authors

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG15 Life on land
    SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

    Publication Identifiers


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