2.1. Conceptual Model
Considering the MFCS as a government-sponsored policy instrument and FSC as an NSMD instrument, we drew from a map proposed by Lister [8
], where the mixing and temporal sequencing of various public and private regulatory instruments at the different stages of the policy cycle constitute a co-regulatory certification system to promote sustainable forest management (Figure 1
] modeled forest certification as a continuum of an NSMD mechanism (see Cashore et al. [4
]) to various levels of government interventions ranging from observing, cooperating, enabling, endorsing, or mandating forest certification. We adapt the two conceptual models [4
] to examine the differences between FSC as an NSMD policy instrument and MFCS as a specific government (state)-provided forest policy instrument in Mexico.
] and Cashore et al. [4
] largely examined the role of forest certification versus government regulation of forests, with varying levels of government intervention in certification. With the MFCS, the government largely goes one step farther, by actually establishing and administering the MFCS program. Thus, we are able to make a relatively unique modern comparison between a private, NSMD certification of FSC, and a state-provided forest certification system with MFSC.
illustrates some of the implications that we examine for Mexico. Based on its origin and reputation as an environmentally, socially, and perhaps economically rigorous standard, we hypothesize that FSC, as an NSMD approach, would have high effectiveness, with more complexity, and a greater cost. Conversely, we would hypothesize that MFCS, as a new government-provided and presumably simpler system, would have less effectiveness and less costs. These general hypotheses serve as a conceptual framework to discuss differences in the systems.
Qualitative (quality in terms of consistency, coherency, and completeness) and quantitative (number of principles, criteria and indicators) data were used to analyze positive and negative aspects from the perspective of literature review in terms of standard content, effectiveness, complexity, and cost of the certification schemes. These aspects could include economic, environmental, social, and technical changes related to pursuing or receiving certification, as well as aspects of the certification process itself [9
The conceptual model, coupled with detailed program enrollment data and analysis of the principles and indicators for the two systems, also provides a means to evaluate the effectiveness of forest certification based on a theoretical analysis and actual content of the two forest certification systems. The principles, indicators, and verifiers provide clear measures of the coverage and complexity of the two systems, and the enrollment data by system provides empirical evidence about the adoption of the systems under these different co-regulatory approaches.
These different approaches also have implications about delivery of forest certification as a policy instrument. FSC has established a global reputation for excellence and widespread market recognition and adoption as the highest level of a certification standard. The alternative Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) also has achieved global recognition and actually has more area certified now than FSC. These FSC and PEFC systems are all largely NSMD systems, although some of the PEFC systems began as government programs or were strongly advised and facilitated by the national governments in their standards establishment.
Despite the merits of NSMD forest certification under either FSC or PEFC, the level of uptake of these systems remains constrained by their complexity, cost, and rigor. All such voluntary environmental programs (VEPs) consist of some type of tradeoffs between rigor, credibility, practicality, and cost [11
]. FSC in Mexico faces these issues, like all programs. It has a complex set of principles, criteria, indicators, and verifiers, which may be particularly difficult for community forest enterprises (CFEs) such as Ejidos. Despite an early start in forest certification, FSC has plateaued in Mexico, and the CFEs are seeking alternatives such as the FSC small, low intensity managed forest standard (SLIMFs). Most CFEs are too large for the SLIMF program, however, so some other FSC or state policy instrument has been sought.
The MFCS was developed at least implicitly as an alternative to the complex FSC certification, with the intent to have it as a simpler and more accessible forest certification approach for CFEs or other small owners. This system has principles, criteria and indicators, but no verifiers such as FSC recommends. MFSC represents a system with less requirements and complexity than FSC and perhaps it could be viewed as a reduced form approach to forest certification, albeit still quite substantial. MFCS also might be viewed as a stepwise approach to full NSMD certification, moving owners toward a higher level FSC standard [2
]. MFCS is clearly far more rigorous than simpler state regulation of forests, with many criteria and indicators beyond simple compliance with environmental and social laws and regulations. MFCS does require compliance with laws, but also a large set of other social, environmental, and economic standards. Thus as shown in Figure 1
, it could provide a government-based, simpler forest certification system than the rigorous NSMD FSC system. We also hypothesize then that MFCS may well provide all the objectives that are needed to meet sustainable forestry, although perhaps with less market benefits.
Given this conceptual model, we analyze the differences and relative merits of FSC and MFCS in Mexico using an empirical examination of the respective program objectives, standards, principles, indicators, verifiers, and extent. We examine the tradeoffs of rigor, global recognition, community practicality, and sustainable forestry impacts as criteria for evaluating the systems. We compare our Mexican findings with the literature from other countries, and make conclusions about the MFCS as a unique policy instrument in Mexico.
2.2. Data and Literature
This study was informed by a systematic data collection effort and literature review, which provided the quantitative basis and a rich qualitative context for the subsequent comparison of FSC and MFCS. We collected data on FSC and MFCS from the program web sites and personal contacts with representatives from their organizations. FSC provided data that was classified by state and type of certificate. The National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) provided data of MFCS certification which was classified by state. For FSC, information was downloaded directly from the website, and for MFCS, information was received through email. Databases were assembled in Excel for better analysis and summary statistics.
Data on Mexican forests and community forests also came from CONAFOR and other literature. Standard bibliographic research was used, as well as literature search tools for referenced and popular articles. These included Google Scholar, data bases of Ebsco Host, Elsevier, Scopus, ACSESS DL and data bases from the National Resource Consortium for Scientific and Technological Information (CONRICYT). Searches were carried out using the virtual library of the Juarez University of Durango State (UJED).
We reviewed forest certification in Mexico via a literature search, collecting secondary and primary data about the systems from the program web sites and government officials, and from available refereed and grey literature. The review methodology included a keyword search by using the standard Google web browser (keywords used: “Forest Certification AND Mexico”, “Forest Stewardship Council” OR “Forest Stewardship Council AND Forest Certification”; “Norma Mexicana NMX-AA-143-SCFI-2008”; “Comparison of Forest Certification”; “Communal forest* AND sustainable* OR comparisons AND stewardship”, “Sustainable Forest Management AND Monitoring”), and a search of authors who have written on the topic of Forest certification or legal aspects of forest management in Mexico.
Expert advice was also used to identify primary references on the topic and the names of researchers working in the area. The sources were peer-reviewed publications including books and articles published in scientific journals, and “grey” literature, including on-line reports and popular articles that have not been reviewed by independent peers. The references in the original sources were checked for related information, and “related article” searches were also included in the data collection. Overall, more than 112 sources were identified. The search included both publications in English and Spanish. Grey literature was considered credible and was included in our paper if it was recommended by an expert or was referenced in another publication, and if it compared two or more certification systems.