External audits ensure forest certification quality

Inka Musta
Inka Musta
29 January 2018

In addition to legislation, the use of forests in Finland is regulated by various voluntary systems. Forest certification is the most significant one. Approximately 85% of Finland’s forests are FSC® or PEFC™ certified. This proportion represents one of the highest in the world.

The criteria for forest certification include the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the use of forests. The certification criteria are established in cooperation with a wide range of stakeholders. The end result is a collectively recognized standard. Among others, this standard covers criteria related to legality, the environment and employees’ rights, in addition to the planning, monitoring and evaluation of activities.

Operators who have committed to the certification must comply with the forest certification requirements. The quality of activities and whether requirements are being fulfilled are inspected in annual audits. During the audit, an external, independent agent evaluates how well the activities correspond to the certification criteria.
The multi-stage audit includes both office and outdoor criteria. The auditor checks that the certification requirements and their implementation have been documented appropriately and visits the sites to ensure that forest operations meet the requirements. In addition, the audit involves interviewing employees, entrepreneurs and stakeholders. The auditor prepares a report on the findings and calls for corrective measures if any shortcomings are identified with regard to the operations.

Any identified shortcomings must be corrected by the next audit. Observations and corrective measures will then be verified and analysed with the auditor. Training personnel and entrepreneurs and updating and clarifying guidelines play a key role in the development of activities. The corrective measures must be implemented in order to maintain the certification.

Forestry covers a wide range of activities. UPM alone makes approximately 20,000 wood trade agreements per year, in addition to the company’s own forest loggings. Forestry operations are completed by a few thousand clerical workers, entrepreneurs and their employees. Ensuring the quality of skills and operations plays a pivotal role in our wood supply chain. The objective is to continuously improve our activities. In addition to the external audits, UPM also continuously monitors the quality of its activities internally and improves them based on the findings.