The cornerstone of forest and CoC certification is the process where an impartial and competent auditor evaluates the company against pre-determined standards. Third-party certification systems do not issue certificates, rather the certification process is carried out by independent certification bodies who have met strict accreditation rules. Accreditation Programs like the Accreditation Services International (ASI) or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) ensure that the certification system remains credible.
Third-party independent and accredited certification bodies conduct the initial assessment and annual audit of certified companies. Third party certification is considered the most credible system as compared to first-party claims, which involve a company making claims about their performance or second-party where an association would make claims about member companies.
Some general characteristics of certification systems include the following.
- Conforms with internationally recognised guidelines for accreditation and independent third-party certification;
- Involves a variety of stakeholders (social, environmental and economic) and Indigenous Peoples in a transparent standard-setting process;
- Requires compliance with applicable national and international laws;
- Recognizes the importance of conformance with international governmental or non-governmental forestry principles;
- Has clearly defined standards, including principles and criteria that define performance levels;
- Addresses environmental, economic and social objectives in a balanced way;
- Certifies forests at a forest management unit (FMU) involving site visits;
- Includes requirements for forest management planning, consultation during forest operations, maintenance of forest cover, biodiversity conservation, protection of soil and watercourses, and protection of social and cultural values;
- Includes a labelling system and a system to track and handle products carrying a certification claim (e.g., chain of custody).