McGill Environmental Research Forest Certification Project

Emerging Trends In Forest Certification:
The Role of Chain of Custody Systems


The first phase of our research involved a thorough review of the relevant literature to compare the various supply chain certification schemes employed by the FSC, CSA and SFI. This analysis was based on the literature provided by the various certifying bodies, much of which was available online. Such information was complemented by articles derived from a variety of prominent forestry journals such as the Forestry Chronicle and the Journal of Forestry. Our first research question was addressed by these results.

The focal point of our research was based on an in-depth telephone survey conducted over the course of four weeks in the months of October and November 2002 by the seven authors of this research paper. The survey contained 26 questions designed to address our three final research questions. A copy of the questionnaire is included in the appendix of this report (appendix I). The survey investigated the FSC's chain of custody (COC) certification system in Canada and the United States. The FSC's database (accessible at provides all registered FSC COC holders in North America along with their contact information. Using a random number generator, we selected 48 companies. Of these 48 companies, our sample was divided as to represent 8 percent of FSC COC companies in Canada, 7 percent of COC companies in the United States, 10 percent of COC/FM (chain of custody/ forest management) companies in Canada and 9 percent of COC/FM companies in the United States. Such proportions are representative of the general distribution of these categories in the databases. Fulfilling our 48 interviews was done with a 56 percent response rate. Non-responses were largely due to time constraints and inconveniences, and not reflecting a bias in our respondents.

Our survey questions were varied and mostly categorical in nature. A few of the questions we included were either quantitative or descriptive. With regards to the categorical questions, possible answers were classified according to a key, which can be found in appendix IV. Possible answers were not directly given to respondents, but were later place according to this key. Data was inserted into an Excel spreadsheet which can be found in appendix VII. Charts of these values were created using Excel. Cross tabulations were then undertaken where they were thought to reveal interesting trends. Pertinent additional comments provided by respondents were compiled. These are also included in appendix VI, and provided us with a better understanding of the extent of differing perspectives about forest certification in general.

The use of a telephone survey was chosen over a mail survey due to the excessive time requirements posed by the postal system. An e-mail survey was avoided due to its marginal reliability. The use of a telephone survey proved to be a valid tool for the study of the FSC certified product chain, as we had anticipated from the success of earlier attempts (Wilson et al., 2001; Spinazze and Kant, 1997). One difficulty encountered in our questionnaire arose as we tried to obtain sale figures from companies, information they often preferred to withhold from us. In retrospect, we found it more productive to ask questions concerning percentage sales volumes, and to infer questions of company size from employee numbers instead of net sale figures.


© 2002 McGill School of Environment
McGill University
3534 University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2A7