A common question about forest certification is, who are these auditors and what are their qualifications? While sometimes posed as a fairly hostile question, it is nonetheless, a legitimate one. For many potential participants in certification or critics of the systems, auditor credibility is at the heart of certification credibility.
Qualifications for auditing firms and auditors are outlined by each individual certification program. These programs often draw upon other sources of auditing standards, the frequently citied one is ISO 19011:2002 Guidelines for quality and/or environmental management systems auditing.
This report provides information about auditor qualification requirements for the two most widely used forest certification programs in the United States, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Both SFI and FSC follow ISO1 guidelines in their auditor requirements, but each takes a slightly different approach. In 2006, the SFI program will implement an accreditation program for forest certification auditing firms and their audit team members in partnership with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB). The FSC has recently announced the restructuring its accreditation program for greater independence from other FSC operations and services. The newly formed organization, Accreditation Services International (ASI), is intended to strengthen the FSC Accreditation Program. In addition, ASI will explore the possibility of providing accreditation services for other national, regional and international certification systems. The impacts of these efforts on the quality and credibility of forest certification and certification audits is yet to be determined.