Environmental labels as a guarantee of the sustainability of packaging



PEFC-certified labels manifest the commitment of brands to forest sustainability.

Forests offer significant benefits both to society and to the planet, producing clean air and water and providing a habitat for over three-quarters of terrestrial wild-life while mitigating climate change. Forests are a source of food, medicines and bio-fuels for over 1,600 million people world-wide who depend on them for survival.


Pablo Narváez


Despite their vital importance, the world’s forests continue to shrink. For this reason, public administrations, companies, brands and other organizations are fostering credible and transparent mechanisms like PEFC certification to guarantee the sustainable origin of cardboard and wooden packaging and responsible management of the supply chain.


Forest certification guarantees the sustainable origin of packaging

PEFC certification ensures that forests are managed in a sustainable manner and guarantees, via the chain of custody, the traceability of forest products, including cardboard and wooden packaging. In this way, when a company, administration or consumer acquires a product with a PEFC certificate, they can be sure that it comes from a forest that is managed in a sustainable way and/or from recycled sources. These certificates are supported by independent certifying bodies and are based on ISO standards.

The PEFC system establishes global sustainability requirements adapted to local conditions. Among the requisites included in its regulations are criteria such as the conservation of the biodiversity of the ecosystems, the protection of forest areas of ecological importance, the prohibition of conversions and compliance with the fundamental agreements of the ILO and with the demands of health and safety in the workplace. The PEFC global sustainability standard also includes specific requirements to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. SDG 15, Life in Terrestrial Ecosystems, refers directly to sustainable forest management, but PEFC also contributes to compliance with the objectives that refer to the elimination of poverty, food safety, health and well-being, the fight against climate change, clean water and hygiene, decent working conditions and sexual equality.

PEFC is the forestry certificate most widely implemented in Spain and world-wide, and in consequence, is the main global source of sustainable forest products. In this country, over 2.2 million hectares managed by about 29,000 forest owners provide wood and other forest products to 1,377 businesses with Chain of Custody certificates. Internationally, 307 million hectares in 5 continents, 750,000 owners and 20,000 companies are PEFC-certified.

At the present, there are 60 companies that manufacture packs and packaging that have PEFC Chain-of-Custody certificates and that provide sustainable packaging to sectors such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, wines and other consumer sectors, offering a response to the demands for sustainability of global markets that are ever more aware of the need to care for and conserve our forests.



Greater demand for sustainability in world-wide markets

The PEFC Chain-of-Custody certificate is conceived to demonstrate compliance with the requisites for sustainability of numerous public and private purchasing and contracting policies for forest products.

International organizations like the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), one of the largest networks in industry world-wide, has developed a series of directives to contribute to zero net deforestation by 2020. The CFG gathers over 400 retailers and manufacturers in 70 countries and includes large consumer-goods companies. The CGF directives recommend PEFC certification as a mechanism to minimize the impact of the packaging used and to ensure the traceability and transparency of secure supply chains.

More and more brands and industries are choosing suppliers with PEFC Chain-of-Custody certificates for their cardboard or wooden packaging, displaying transparency, integrity and traceability in the supply chain. This responsible management of the value chain generates consumer confidence and offers a differentiating factor with respect to their competitors. Brands in different sectors, such as foods and beverages (McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Pepsi, Coca-Cola Lipton, Carte d’Or, Glenrothes, Carlsberg), supermarket chains (Mercadona, Alcampo, ALDI, TESCO), cosmetics and perfumes (Loewe, Adolfo Dominguez, Guerlain, Biotherm, Ecobeauty), nutrition and complementary foodstuffs (Drasanvi, Maryns, Kneipp, Phergal, Scop Ti) have committed to the PEFC label in their packages, bags and caps to demonstrate their commitment to the forests.


Responsible purchasing of certified packaging

To guarantee that the packaging that they purchase is PEFC-certified, brands should ask their supplier for a copy of the currently-valid Chain of Custody certificate bearing their name. Also, invoices or delivery notes should show the % of PEFC-certified material, or a formal declaration should be supplied. Only products containing more than 70% of PEFC-certified materials can be labelled with the PEFC logo. Suppliers’ PEFC certificates may be consulted via the web site



Certified packaging generates confidence in consumers

The PEFC label generates confidence in consumers and allows them to evaluate and reward a company’s commitment to the conservation and care of forests. Consumers are very conscious of the effects of their purchasing decisions, and for this reason, they rely on environmental labelling as a guarantee of sustainability and of minimum impact on the environment.

Consumers look for the PEFC label on the products they purchase, as was shown by the last global consumer survey undertaken by PEFC at the end of 2017, interviewing 21,194 adults in 21 countries. According to the data obtained in Spain, 60% of consumers know and trust the PEFC seal, 67% of consumers believe that forestry certification labels are important to promoting sustainable forest management and 53% of consumers look for products with certification labels. Spanish consumers coincide with the results obtained at a global level, demonstrating greater confidence in products with labels that certify environmental, sustainability and/or ethical aspects.


Pablo Narváez 
is in charge of the Chain of Custody & Brand Development for PEFC, a non-profit global organization that guarantees to brands, retailers and prescribers in many sectors, such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, foods, consumer products and goods, etcetera, that their cardboard and wooden packaging has a sustainable origin, eliminating risks in a safe, transparent supply chain audited by an independent third party. At present, over 310 million hectares of forest are certified according to PEFC sustainability criteria, providing packaging and other products to over 20,000 PEFC-certified companies, fomenting compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 and helping consumers to identify sustainable products.


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