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 FSC Certification and Labeling

Forest Stewardship Council

Through FSC certification and labeling, the end consumer can find and purchase products and materials that are harvested, processed and manufactured in a sustainable fashion.  The FSC label is the gold standard in forest management and sustainable wood products.

The Forest Stewardship Council was founded after the 1992 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro to address the environmental impact of poor forest management.  Today, FSC is the only standards body recognized by both the corporate sector and the environmental organizations for its sound forest management standards and principals.

Through its programs, FSC has certified over 100 million hectares of forests in over 80 countries.  While this constitutes only 7% of the total forests on the planet, companies committed to the use of FSC certified products accounted for 40% of the entire supply chain. 

FSC products are denoted by the FSC label.  The right to use this label on a product means that a company must comply with all of the FSC requirements for management and operations.  The requirements set forth by the FSC are based on 10 principles and 56 criteria. The principles that guide FSC certification are as follows:

  • Principle 1. Compliance with all applicable laws and international treaties 
  • Principle 2. Demonstrated and uncontested, clearly defined, long–term land tenure and use rights 
  • Principle 3. Recognition and respect of indigenous peoples' rights
  • Principle 4. Maintenance or enhancement of long-term social and economic well-being of forest workers and local communities and respect of worker’s rights in compliance with International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions 
  • Principle 5. Equitable use and sharing of benefits derived from the forest
  • Principle 6. Reduction of environmental impact of logging activities and maintenance of the ecological functions and integrity of the forest
  • Principle 7. Appropriate and continuously updated management plan
  • Principle 8. Appropriate monitoring and assessment activities to assess the condition of the forest, management activities and their social and environmental impacts
  • Principle 9. Maintenance of High Conservation Value Forests (HCVFs) defined as environmental and social values that are considered to be of outstanding significance or critical importance
  • Principle 10. In addition to compliance with all of the above, plantations must contribute to reduce the pressures on and promote the restoration and conservation of natural forests.

Each principle is broken down into a set of criteria and the FSC has also further defined and explained the principles in a set of standards and policies.  A link to the principles and criteria can be found at the bottom of this page. 

Both forests and wood products can attain FSC certification through the adherence to all of the principles, criteria, standards and policies.  There are three main certification types provided by FSC. They are as follows.

  • FSC Forest Management Certification - Forest managers or owners can voluntarily participate in this program, through an independent, third-party inspection of their forest management operations.  With certification, the timber can then bear the FSC label and be sold as such to customers. There are special programs for tree plantations and small or low intensity forests.
  • FSC Chain of Custody Certification - Chain of custody (CoC) certification allows manufacturers who process and trade in timber and other non-timber forest materials to trace and account for the FSC certified wood in their products.  Companies with FSC CoC certification can label products with the FSC label if they comply with the standards.
  • FSC Controlled Wood - While the number of FSC certified forests and CoC operations is growing and developing, there are still some shortages in certain supply chains.  The Controlled Woods Certification allows companies to mix FSC certified and non-certified products so long as the non-certified wood complies with the  five Controlled Woods  criteria, which limit the use of wood that has been deemed unacceptable.

Independent organizations known as certification bodies carry out the process of inspecting forest management and chain of custody operations for compliance with the FSC principles and criteria.  The process of attaining either level of certification is the same and is as follows:

  • Contact one or several FSC accredited certification bodies. To give you a first estimate regarding cost and time needed the certification body will need some basic information about your operation. The certification body will provide you with information about the requirements for FSC certification.
  • You decide which certification body you would like to work with and sign an agreement with the certification body.
  • A certification audit takes place to assess your company’s qualifications for certification.
  • The data collected at the audit is the basis of the audit report based on which the certification body makes the certification decision.
  • If the certification decision is positive, you receive a FSC certificate. If the audit revealed that your operation is not yet in full compliance with FSC requirements, then you can go for further audits after you have implemented the changes suggested in the certification report.

Only a certified operation, either forest management or chain of custody, can apply the FSC label to a raw material, product or line of products.  An FSC certificate is valid for five years and requires annual surveillance audits by the certification body to verify compliance with the FSC principles and criteria.  Controlled Woods are also independently verified before being mixed with FSC certified products.



Forest Stewardship Council - http://www.fsc.org

FSC Steps to Certification - http://www.fsc.org/106.html

FSC Accreditation Certification Bodies - http://www.accreditation-services.com/res/CertificationBodies/53120090206asiaccreditedcbs.pdf

FSC Certificate Search  (if you just hit search, it will yield a result with all 13,000+ results that you can narrow by making your search string more specific) - http://www.fsc-info.org/VController.aspx?nolayout=true&Path=5e8cddf3-9b09-46c6-8b11-2fbdad9e2d71

UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Division for Sustainable Development - http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/index.shtml

FSC – United States - http://www.fscus.org

Sustainable Forestry Initiative - http://www.sfiprogram.org