SAC Forestry wins certification contract

Big win for Forestry Certification

Forestry team wins contracts to audit all public forestry in England, Scotland and Wales.

We’re celebrating a big success after claiming three new contracts to audit public forests across Great Britain, increasing its portfolio by 839,193 hectares.

The team will now audit Natural Resources Wales, Forestry and Land Scotland and Forestry England for the next 5 years. The successful bids mean we're now responsible for auditing and certifying all public woodland in England, Scotland and Wales to the UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS).   

This marks a whopping 205% rise in the areas of UK woodland certified by us, increasing to 1,247,805.96 hectares. The forest cover we now audit in England alone is equivalent to the total area of London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds combined. 

Globally, our certification portfolio now encompasses nearly 16 million hectares in over 50 countries, certifying to PEFCTM and FSC® forest management and chain of custody standards.

Soil Association Certification Forestry will audit to the full UKWAS standard. While tailored to the UK, the UKWAS standards are internationally recognised by FSC and PEFC, and include legal compliance, management planning, woodland operations, and the natural, historical and cultural environment, as well as its management of the people, communities and workers that use, work in and enjoy British woodland each year. 

The contracts in numbers:

  • Forestry and Land Use Scotland - 470,000 hectares added
  • Natural Resources Wales - 124,000 hectares added
  • Forestry England - 245,193 hectares added


Upper branches of an oak tree against a blue sky


What are Forest Management and Chain of Custody?

Forest Management

More than ever, the public want reassurance that their wood-based products aren’t causing damage to people or the environment. If a forest is certified to FSC or PEFC standards, you can rest assured that it’s being managed sustainably and responsibly, in a way that preserves the natural ecosystem and benefits the lives of local people and workers, all the while ensuring it sustains economic viability.

Certification is achieved by passing an assessment (or ‘audit’) carried out by an accredited certification body, with forest management conformity assessed against a set of standards, principles and criteria. The forest management certification is valid for five years and subject to annual checks that makes sure certain requirements are met.

Forest certification is a proven tool that goes beyond deforestation and maintains the quality of the forests, preventing forest degradation. Certification works for large and small companies, and is controlled by independent, specialised third-party bodies to maintain impartiality.


Chain of Custody

There are many processes that take place once timber leaves the forest, between processing timber, manufacturing wood products and distribution for those products to be sold – this is managed through a process called chain of custody.

The public are increasingly looking to choose products that are responsibly and sustainably sourced. Chain of custody certification verifies that materials have been identified and separated from non-certified and non-controlled materials as they make their way along the supply chain. It allows companies to use either the FSC or PEFC logo to demonstrate that their products meet a strict set of standards and shows compliance with public and private sector procurement policies, such as the EU Ecolabel and US Green Building Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED).

Chain of custody certification is available in two forms, depending on the scale and type of operation:

  • For organisations processing or selling forest products, you can certify a single businesses or facility, or combine sites under multi-site/group certification (this could be for large companies operating multiple sites or smaller enterprises that choose to group together to achieve collective certification).
  • For projects, you can achieve one-off certification, which is issued to individual objects or buildings that are totally or partially made using certified components.


Pine forest floor - a habitat favoured by the Capercaillie (bird)


The changing face of forests in the UK

Forests are a vitally important resource for the planet. Healthy forests can help to mitigate climate change by capturing carbon and are more resilient to changing weather patterns; they also prevent soil erosion and support biodiverse ecosystems. Forest management certification standards play a crucial role in protecting this natural resource for future generations. 

In the past year, 11,200 hectares of new woodland have been planted in Scotland. That's an incredible 22 million new trees - 60,273 a day! This is fantastic news and is the first time any UK planting target has ever been exceeded (the original target was 10,000 hectares). With Scotland planting around 84% of all new woodland in the UK - 40% of this being native broadleaves - we can all be proud of what's being achieved.

Tree planting in England fell well short of targets in the past year, new figures show, despite government promises to restore and plant new woodland across the country to combat the climate change crisis. Only 1,420 hectares (3,507 acres) of trees were planted in England in the year to March 2019, against the government's target of 5,000 hectares in the period, with smaller areas in Wales and Northern Ireland (500 hectares and 240 hectares, respectively). The total tree cover of the UK is unchanged at 10% in England, 15% in Wales, 19% in Scotland and 8% in Northern Ireland.


A red and white toadstool on the forest floor surrounded by autumn leaves


What we have to say...

Kevin Jones, Head of Forestry at Soil Association Certification Forestry, said: “Each of these organisations care for Britain’s woodlands chimes with Soil Association Certification’s ambitions for the natural environment across our forestry, organic and public procurement work. This is a big opportunity for us to help them continue to responsibly manage forests to the highest standards, so that future generations can continue to enjoy accessible, wildlife-rich and productive forests for years to come.

“Winning these contracts is testament to the quality of service Soil Association Certification Forestry offers and cements our position as England’s leading forest management body.” 

James Simpson, Forestry England’s Director of Operations – Forestry and Land Management, said: “We’re really looking forward to working with Soil Association Certification Forestry as our new UKWAS certification auditors. We focus on connecting everyone with the nation’s forests - UKWAS certification is a very important part of that because it provides independent assurance about the quality of sustainable forest management across our estate.

“As the largest land manager in England, were very aware of the challenges we face in terms of a very diverse estate, stakeholder demands that sometimes compete, and the need to plan decades into the future so that our woodlands are resilient in the face of environmental change. Forest certification helps us to meet these challenges and make our forests fit for the next 100 years.” 

Simon Hodgson, Chief Executive of Forestry and Land Scotland, said: “Our mission is to look after Scotland’s national forests and land for the benefit of all, now and for the future. Sustainability and environmental good practice are at the heart of all our work and the Soil Association’s long track record in certification will help us add value to our audit process.”

Dominic Driver, NRW’s Head of Land Stewardship, said: “At Natural Resources Wales, the sustainable management of natural resources is at the heart of what we do. Having our woodland certified against the UK Woodland Assurance Standard is key to demonstrating we’re achieving sustainable management. It helps us continually improve what we do, drives up standards of health and safety, and environmental protection, and allows our timber customers to be confident they’re buying timber from a sustainable source.  

A healthy, transparent, and robust working relationship with our auditors is an integral part of achieving these benefits and we’re delighted to be working with the Soil Association in this way.”


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