The increasing pressure on the forests of the world is also increasing the awareness that responsible and sustainable use of this natural resource is vital. It is vital to be able to fulfil the need for timber and timber products in the long term and to secure the various ecological and social functions of the forest for current and future generations.
Sustainable forest management is already operational in various European, North and South American, African and Southeast Asian countries. The demand for sustainably produced timber is growing and various national and international certification systems seek to guarantee the sustainability of forest management. Because these systems often make use of various criteria and procedures relating to the inspection of sustainable forest management (SFM) and the chain-of-custody (CoC), it is infeasible for the customer to distinguish between the various certificates. The customer benefits from an independent, expert institution which checks the contents and reliability of the various certificates for him. For more than15 years Keurhout has been acting as an independent gatekeeper, checking certificates of various systems against the criteria of its Protocol for the Validation of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM protocol), which was drawn up on the basis of minimum requirements for sustainable forest management established by the Dutch government. Keurhout admits certificates which satisfy these requirements to the Keurhout system for sustainably produced timber (Keurhout-Sustainable).
In the last few years a lot of attention is rightly paid to illegal logging and the illegal trade of timber. At international and national level there are various initiatives to combat illegal practices and promote legal trade. For example, public opinion is being focused on illegal timber, work is being carried out on EU legislation and regulations and international agreements in this area (FLEGT) and the Royal Dutch Timber Industry Organisation NTTA introduced a new code of conduct, in which the members are required to exclusively trade and/or process timber which can be demonstrated to be legal. In various European countries governments are requesting at the very least legally produced timber. These developments lead to a concrete need of the sector to demonstrate that timber was obtained, processed and traded in a legal manner (in accordance with the relevant legislation in the country of origin). In anticipation of this need, on the request of NTTA a reference framework was developed with which the value of legality statements can be reviewed, the Keurhout Protocol for the Validation of Legal Timber (LET protocol). Keurhout admits certificates which meet the legality requirements to the Keurhout system for legally produced timber (Keurhout-Legal).
Reviewing certification systems on the basis of the SYS review is a very efficient way to determine whether certificates which were issued by a specific certification system meet the requirements of the Keurhout criteria for Legal Origin (KH-LET) or the criteria for sustainable forest management (KH-SFM). If a system gets through the review, this means that in principle all certificates issued under that system will be admitted to the Keurhout-Legal, respectively Keurhout-Sustainable system. This is only possible if there is sufficient certainty that the various certificates would also meet the legal or sustainability requirements in an individual review. The SYS protocol therefore sets extra requirements for the system and its internal control. Moreover, when carrying out the review a number of specimen cases are studied, to evaluate the working of the system in practice. For internationally operating systems reviews will generally be at the national level, because a standard is often defined at that level (in alignment with national statutory frameworks and local circumstances). If review at system level is not feasible, validation is always possible at certificate level (LET- or SFM review).
In order to attune the above mentioned protocols in an optimal way, avoid repetition of elements and recognize the experience of the Board of Experts due to their application over the years, a decision was taken to work on a review of the set of protocols. The different protocols have been merged into one Keurhout-Protocol, which is valid from May 15th 2009 onwards.
It is important for the customer that legal or sustainable produced timber can be traced in a transparent manner during the entire processing and trading chain (CoC), from forest to consumer. Within the Keurhout system the timber is therefore closely followed to guarantee to the customer that he is buying responsibly produced timber with a reliable certificate of origin. This is true for the CoC in producing countries, for which a valid CoC certificate has been issued, as well as for the Keurhout CoC within the EU, which is evaluated by independent accredited Certifying Bodies.