Key Changes of the PEFC standard


Key Changes of the PEFC standard for Sustainable Forest Management


New structure and more extensive content in the standard

The national PEFC standard follows the structure of the international PEFC benchmark standard for sustainable forest management (SFM) which corresponds to the structure of ISO standards. In addition to forest management requirements the standard includes requirements for the certificate holder regarding operational planning and monitoring, documentation, communication, internal auditing and improving operations.

In accordance with PEFC’s international requirements, the criteria include requirements for forest conversion. Sites valuable for biodiversity, archaeological sites, semi-natural biotopes and valuable landscape areas shall not be endangered through clearing forests for other land use, or afforestation. During the period of validity of the certificate only a maximum of 5% of the area covered by the certificate may be cleared to other land use.

The standard has extended to cover cultivating Christmas trees and decorative coniferous sprigs. These new additions shall comply with the requirements of the standard with some exceptions concerning retention trees and tree species used for regeneration.

More retention trees and dead wood

The preservation of structural features important for forest diversity is ensured by changes in the so-called retention tree criterion. The minimum number of stems to be saved doubles from 10 to 20 per hectare, and the minimum diameter of living retention trees increases from 10 cm to 15 cm.

If there is no required amount of dead wood, its formation shall be promoted with man-made snags. Thickets for game and mixture of deciduous and coniferous tree species shall be maintained at all stages of forest management, if possible in situ.

Charred and burnt wood

Burnt and fire-damaged wood, which is important for biodiversity, is actively produced by prescribed burnings and created by natural fires. Prescribed burning criterion includes forest fire areas larger than two hectares, on which some of the charred and burnt wood must be left unmanaged. This way also smaller burnt areas are documented, and in their handling the preservation of burnt and dying wood important for the species is ensured.

Wider buffer zones for water bodies

Forest biodiversity will be promoted by wider buffer zones next to water bodies and mires. Only selective cuttings are allowed on the buffer zones of at least 10 meters wide of open mires and ditched peatlands that are left to regain their natural state.

Water bodies and springs shall be protected by buffer zones which bind suspended solids and nutrients, provide shading and protect biodiversity.  Average minimum width of buffer zones for water bodies and open mires is 10 meters, with absolute minimum of 5 meters everywhere. Only selective cuttings are permitted on buffer zones. Trees of varying sizes are left on site and deciduous trees are favored.

Previously, the required width of the buffer zone next to open mires, water bodies and springs was 5–10 m, and only shrubs and smaller trees were expected to be left on site for coverage.

Water protection and biodiversity in peatland forests

Measures to safeguard the biodiversity of the peatland habitats are diversifying.

In natural and natural-like peatlands the first-time ditching and the establishing of energy tree plantations are prohibited.

Ditched peatlands with low productivity of wood shall be left to rehabilitate.

Herb-rich sedge pine swamps are included in valuable habitats whose characteristics must be safeguarded.

The requirements for peatland forests include no longer extensive reference to rare peatland types and their possibilities to return to natural state because from now on the standard requires the protection of previously managed sites that have reached the likeness to natural state.

Timber production, maintaining and protecting biodiversity, water protection and climate impacts are taken into account in the guidelines for soil preparation, ditch network maintenance (DNM), and felling methods concerning management of peatland forests.

Water protection is emphasized in the requirements for peatland forest management. In accordance with the Water Act, The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres) shall be notified about DNM projects and drainage mounding with need to steer water to affected water bodies.

Paying attention to the requirements of the Water Act

Habitats protected by the Water Act have been included in the valuable habitats protected by the standard. As these are statutory, the requirement is implicitly included in the previous standard. The new entry will increase the awareness of operators and forest owners about the habitats and the requirements for them.

Wider buffer zones for water bodies and springs reduce the export of suspended solids and nutrients.

In the new standard, a 5-meter buffer zone shall be maintained also in straightened and cleared ditch-like brooks and streams less than 2 meters wide.

Water bodies with salmon stock of native species, are protected in particular. In these salmon rich waters, the shade-providing buffer zones shall always be at least 10 meters wide on average.

Forest roads must be built and renovated in a manner that ensures migratory fish and other aquatic organisms’ free movement in affected waterbeds.

Streamlets are included in water bodies whose natural state shall not be endangered.

Crossings waterbeds shall be carried out without significantly altering the affected water body. Operation must not cause water-induced depressions or grooves.

Expanding the use of spatial data

Informatively, as a new addition the spatial data sets provided by the Environmental Administration (Ranta 10, Salmon Stock Data) has been introduced in the criteria and can be used to support the planning of forestry measures.

The prevailing groundwater classification has been updated to the standard.

In the new standard, fertilization and stump harvesting shall be prohibited also in Class 2 groundwater areas.

The use of chemical pesticides or herbicides shall be prohibited in Class E groundwater areas and fertilization is only permitted if it does not endanger the groundwater-dependent ecosystems of Class E groundwater areas.

The growing stock of forests remain as a carbon sink

Maintaining of forests as a carbon sink is ensured not only by following guidelines for good forest management practices and growth conditions, but also by making sure, that the harvesting volumes do not exceed the growth over a five-year period. Previously, harvest volume was compared at the regional level to the maximum sustainable harvest volume which was calculated for the Regional Forest Program.

Comparing the volumes of removal to growth ensures that the growing stock remains a carbon sink regardless of the stand structure and age distribution in any area. The new design of the criterion is neutral, as it is suitable for certificate holders also when the area covered by the certificate is not identical with Regional Forest Program area.

Improving the knowledge of forests among children and youth

 When promoting knowledge about forests among children and youth, the emphasis is put on communicating about diverse use of forests and alternative silvicultural methods.

The program to promote forest knowledge and the relationship between nature and children and youth shall include a plan for promoting employment opportunities for young people studying in the field of forestry and nature.

Combating the gray economy  

Greater attention will be paid to combating the gray economy in the contracting of forest services. The issuer of the contract must always have documents reporting compliance with the Act on the Contractor’s Obligations and Liability when Work is Contracted Out (Subscribers Liability Act) before concluding a contract and regardless of the nature of the contract and at least annually.

The tenderers shall prove that they fulfill the obligations under the Subscribers Liability Act unless the information is already available to the issuer of the contract.

The issuer is not allowed to enter into contract with the service provider undergoing or applying for debt restructuring, unless the service provider can demonstrate that it fulfils its obligations under the Subscribers Liability Act.

The criteria concerning employees’ competence, occupational safety and well-being, and employer’s obligations has been clarified. More emphasis is laid on well-being at work and equality. The load  of travelling, among other things, is identified. If work-related hazards or harms due to e.g. working conditions or working hours cannot be completely eliminated, risk mitigation measures must be taken.

Regarding employer obligations, the requirements have been clarified by mentioning the compensation for overtime as required by the Working Hours Act and collective agreements. The employer or the issuer of the contract shall ensure that the foreign contractual partner has been informed of the rights and obligations as an employee in Finland.

Non-wood forest products enter the standard

As completely new addition, the requirements for the sustainable utilization of non-wood forest products was introduced into the criteria. When utilizing non-wood forest products, the vitality of the species, product safety, the sustainability of forest management and local communities shall be taken into account.

Collecting products shall not endanger habitats that are important for biodiversity. Protected, endangered and threatened species must not be collected.

Operators who utilize non-wood forest products commercially shall have guidelines based on the best practices defined and agreed by the sector.

The forest owner must be aware of the sustainable use of the non-wood forest products of his estate, other than those included in Everyman’s rights, when the products are used commercially. The requirement applies to the forest owner’s own commercial and contractual collecting activities.



PEFC Finland – Finnish Forest Certification Council

Auvo Kaivola, Secretary General


tel: +358 40 076 5437

Read also:

Significant Changes to the PEFC Standard for Sustainable Forest management

PEFC-standardin keskeiset muutokset lyhyesti – Summary in Finnish


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