Forest Certification is a mechanism for managing forests to the principles of sustainable development. The two main international schemes operational are FSC and PEFC. Chain of Custody is the paperwork flow through the chain, from the forest to the final retailer or merchant to prove that the timber in the product is derived from well-managed forests. To claim that the timber is certified all links in the chain from the forest through to the merchant or retailer have to have an audited Chain of Custody process. The company has to show traceability, which means it can identify and track certified timber through its operations. It can also be used to provide traceability for schemes which verify that the wood comes from legal sources.
The auditors check the company's procedures to ensure that the operations comply with the specific requirements of the Chain of Custody Standard of the forest certification scheme. However, on the whole there are only a few differences between the Chain of Custody standards, operations for both are virtually the same. If the Chain of Custody audit is successful, then the audited company is awarded a certificate confirming it has a process to identify and pass on certified timber. However, it does not mean that everything sold by the company is certified. The general rule is that to sell certified timber, a company requires a Chain of Custody certificate covering that timber.
However, a company with 15 or less employees could be eligible to join a Group Chain of Custody scheme. These operate so that the administration is undertaken by a central body but the individual companies still implement the procedures on their sites. The downside with this scheme is that if one fails, then everyone in the scheme fails. However the major plus side is that costs in terms of money and personnel time are reduced considerably.
The TTF has published a Chain of Custody Guide for members to summarise important information about what's involved in the setting up of a chain of custody system which can then be independently audited by the member's scheme of choice.
A COC Update briefing note (September 2011) has also been produced for members to summarise the changes to the chain of custody standards for the two main schemes, FSC and PEFC. These changes come into effect from October 2011.
In December 2011 the TTF also launched a Group Chain of Custody service as well as a tailored one for larger businesses. Follow the relevant links for more details on the Group Chain of Custody Scheme (under 15 employees) and here for the tailored COC service for larger companies (over 15 employees).