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India Introduces National Forest Certification Scheme

A comprehensive investigation into deforestation and greenwashing   by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) conducted  in March of this year cast serious doubts over the credibility of existing certifications 

The Indian government introduced the Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme (IFWCS) in response to growing international concerns about deforestation and the illegal wood trade. This initiative represents a substantial step towards sustainable forest management techniques. To provide a competitive alternative to the private foreign certification organisations that have dominated the Indian market for the previous 20 years, the IFWCS seeks to validate entities dedicated to such practices.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) conducted a detailed study in March that highlighted major concerns regarding the validity of the certifications that are currently in place. This investigation led to the decision. This has a negative effect on the global market for Indian goods in addition to increasing the dropout rate among certified firms.  The government’s response includes the launch of the IFWCS, coinciding with the implementation of new forest management standards soon to be mandatory for all forest divisions across the country.

The significance of these standards was emphasised by Professor Manmohan Yadav, who worked on their development at the Indian Institute of Forest Management in Bhopal. He clarified that India’s forests are managed in accordance with working plans that have been modified to reflect the recently created Indian Forest Management Standards. Forest divisions are not required to follow these standards, which include eight criteria, 69 indicators and 254 verifiers, but they can become certified if they do.

Although it is not required, the government-backed certification is regarded as a step in the right direction towards fostering process openness and trust. Professor Yadav sees it developing into a stand-alone organisation along the lines of the Quality Council of India or the Bureau of Indian Standards.

The IFWCS includes certification for sustainable forest management, sustainable tree management outside of forests and chain of custody, which guarantees traceability along the entire supply chain of forest products. The guidelines highlight the potential advantages for a range of stakeholders, such as businesses, end-user industries, exporters, importers, traders, saw millers, growers of trees and forest management units.

India’s forest-based items, especially furniture and handicrafts, are exported extensively to Europe and the US, so the IFWCS reacts to increasing import regulations because of growing awareness of the issues of deforestation and climate change. This action is in line with the global commitment made at the 2021 Glasgow climate change conference, where more than 100 nations made the important and urgent promise to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030.

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