Natuurlijk Kapitaal Nederland | natuur & economie verbinden

Integrating ecosystem services into the tropical timber value chain

Certification for sustainable forest management – like FSC – appears to offer good prospects for the integration of ecosystem services in the governance of the tropical timber value chain. The term ecosystem services then requires a specific and practical definition which includes not just economic value but value to society too.

Research issue

How can ecosystem services be given an overt place in the governance of the tropical timber value chain? This relates to services other than simply the production of wood.These could be services whose value to society is mostly international, such as carbon capture.Such a service can be marketed and thus contribute to making forest management more sustainable.But it could also relate to services which are important mainly to the local population, such as the supply of forest products like cane or food.


The researchers looked in detail at a number of initiatives that are intended to make the supply chains for tropical timber more sustainable:the government policy on Sustainable Purchasing, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative.


It was interesting to note that many initiatives use existing market standards for sustainable production, such as the FSC label.These standards are widely recognized in the context of the sustainable management of forests and making that visible on the market with a label.Essentially they provide a facility which is internationally available and that other initiatives draw on.The incorporation of ecosystem services in the market standard would therefore appear to offer good prospects for giving ecosystem services a more manifest place in the governance of the chain of custody for tropical timber.This governance could be arranged through the market or through government.

The researchers refer to a number of steps which would be necessary for successful inclusion:

  • A more specific definition of the term ecosytem services for practical use in market standards and product certification which covers both economic value and value to society
  • Better scientific demonstration how the use of market standards and product certification contributes to the conservation and improvement of ecosystem services
  • Drawing up an international list of indicators for social and ecological impact related to ecosystem services.This could help with harmonising the existing wide range of certification and labelling systems
  • Giving more specific attention to ecosystem services in government instruments, through the use of tax incentives, for example; pilot studies on natural capital accounting and natural resources chains.The criteria for the Sustainable Purchasing programme could also give more specific attention to ecosystem services.

Example:Forest Certification of Ecosystem Services (ForCES)

A noteworthy example is the FSC ForCES initiative that aims to include forestry ecosystem serivces more explicitly in the standard for forest management.A comprehensive standard for this has been tested at a number of pilot sites in Chili, Indonesia, Nepal and Vietnam, for example.

ForCES will make the new standard available to the market parties in 2015.It remains to be seen how this standard will be interpreted in practice and whether paying for forest services other than just timber will get off the ground in the years to come.

Study conducted by

Alterra Wageningen UR research institute

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