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Is the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) part of the solution or part of the problem?


Previous Dovetail articles1 have emphasized the importance of international standards, and stressed the fact that differences in standards matter, to producers, customers, and stakeholders. But differences in standards only deliver differences in performance if they are actually implemented. Whether a forest is certified as complying with FSC2 standards or PEFC3 standards, decision makers need to have confidence in the reliability of whichever certificates of compliance are being issued if they are going to make purchasing or investment decisions based on them.

This confidence depends on the competence and integrity of the certification body, underwritten by the effectiveness of the system under which it is accredited. 

There are many accreditation bodies around the world. It is worth asking whether all accreditation bodies are equally reliable. It is also worth considering the process by which accreditation bodies demonstrate their reliability.

If accreditation bodies can show they are equally reliable, then there is the potential to achieve a system in which a single accreditation provides international recognition for certificates issued. Products or services anywhere in the world could be "certified once, accepted everywhere".

This article considers two models designed to deliver internationally recognized accreditation in the forest sector. One model is followed by FSC the other by PEFC. Neither is perfect. Both could be improved. This article suggests how.

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