Among other objectives, certification aims to improve environmental outcomes in developing country forests. Yet little is known about whether and how it actually generates such benefits. To shed light on these questions, an analysis was conducted of 1 162 corrective action requests (CARs) issued after third-party inspections of 35 forests in Mexico certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. CARs detail the changes in procedures and on-the-ground conditions that forest managers must make to obtain or retain certification. Based mainly on simple summary statistics, the findings are mixed. On one hand, most forest managers quickly complied with CARs and received fewer over time— results suggesting that certification generated environmental benefits. But most CARs addressed minor procedural issues and focused on social, economic and legal issues rather than on-the-ground environmental changes—results indicating the opposite. Follow-on research comparing the environmental performance of certified and similar uncertified forests would help resolve this uncertainty.
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Vol. 19 • No. 3