Forest Certification in the Brazilian Amazon

Publication Date: 
Thursday, January 16, 2014

Much of early certification in Brazil was on plantation land in southern Brazil, outside of the Amazon Basin, but recently, new projects operating in natural forest concessions have received FSC certification. While some forestry operations are recognized for their sustainable forestry management, others have been severely criticized improper practices.

Brazil was a major consideration in the establishment of forest certification in the 1990’s, as international conservation advocates sought to stem deforestation from the Amazon Basin. In the late 90’s, international organizations, in collaboration with local partners such as Imaflora, began certification activities, largely with plantation operations that exported pulp and paper products. Initial efforts focused largely on plantations in southern Brazil, as the majority of logging in the Amazon Basin is practiced illegally.  

As FSC organizations established national guidelines for certification, forest producers in Brazil created an industry-driven certification body known as CERFLOR, which is internationally recognized by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC).  One of the first certified CERFLOR project was a pulp plantation of International Paper in the southern state of Paraná.

The Amazon Alternative is a public-private partnership designed to coordinate producers and consumers of tropical timber and promote sustainable forest management and forest certification. The partnership is based on timber trade within Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru, as well as between the Amazon region and Holland and other countries in Europe. The Amazon Alternative seeks to improve market access for certified forest products, thus increasing demand for sustainable forest management.

However, some certified forest operations in Brazil have been criticized for their lack of compliance with sustainable forest principles. In Bahia, along the northern most stretch of the endangered coastal Atlantic forest, the Veracel – Fibria eucalyptus plantation was certified by the international FSC auditor SGS Qualifor, but criticized for evicting locals, chemical use, and lack of identification of high conservation value forest (FSC Watch). Veracel, on the other hand, claims that it supports local communities and located plantations on previous cattle grazing land, not forest land (Veracel).  

There are a small number of community forestry operations in Brazil that are certified. Certification is often found to be difficult for community forestry because of the certification procedure, which can sometimes be long and costly. To address this issue, in 1996 Imaflora created a Social Fund for Certification, to assist communities in the path towards certification. Nevertheless, certification remains a challenge for small scale and natural forest operations in the Amazon Basin.

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