The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC™) is an international organization dedicated to responsible forest management. Established in 1993, FSC certification is now the most widely accepted certification for responsible forest management, with over 250 million hectares of certified forests worldwide.
FSC™ certification provides a framework for businesses, organizations, and individuals to ensure their paper and wood products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental and economic benefits.
FSC™ standards promote the conservation and restoration of forests, and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. Through FSC certification, users of wood and paper products like coffee cup sleeves can be sure their purchases are contributing to healthy forests and communities and helping to protect the world’s forests for future generations.
Overview of FSC™ and its Mission
The original purpose of the FSC was to ensure that the world’s forests were managed in a way that would allow them to be used in the future.
The FSC was established in 1993 as a joint initiative of the WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Its goal was to create a global standard for responsible forest management that could be applied throughout the world’s forests.
At present, the FSC has affiliates in over 90 countries and works with a wide range of stakeholders in the forest industries, including forest owners, processors, and traders, as well as environmental and social NGOs.
The FSC is a non-profit organization that is independent of government and industry. Its secretariat is based in Switzerland, and it is financed through membership fees and certification charges. The FSC has a democratic structure and a policy-making board of directors composed of equal numbers of industry and environmental representatives.
Benefits of FSC™ Certification
Forest owners, processors, and traders who want to certify their operations may do so through one of the FSC’s independent third-party certification bodies.
Once certified, these forests and their products receive the FSC label. The FSC label is widely trusted by consumers, retailers, and other buyers of forest products around the world.
In recent years, the number of forest product buyers requiring their suppliers to be FSC certified has increased dramatically.
Forest products carrying the FSC label are preferred by many buyers because they are assured that these products were produced from responsibly managed forests. This creates a competitive advantage for FSC forest owners and processors who are able to charge a premium price for their products.
FSC certification also offers a number of other benefits including:
- Enhanced conservation and restoration of forests.
- Rights of indigenous peoples and local communities are recognized and respected.
- Access to new markets – Sustainable sourcing of raw materials.
- Public image and reputation.
Principles of FSC™ Certification
The FSC establishes clear and rigorous principles for forest management and ensures that forests are managed
according to the principles. These principles are key aspects of forest management that must be managed properly to
ensure the long-term sustainability of forests and the rights of people who live in and depend upon them. The FSC principles are:
- Conservation: Ensure that forests are managed in a way that maintains their biodiversity and the ecological health of the forest.
- Sustainable management: Ensure that forests are managed in a way that does not exceed their natural ability to regenerate.
- Rights and responsibilities: Respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities that depend on the forests for their traditional livelihoods and way of life.
- Full responsibility: Recognize that forests are a shared resource that must be managed in a way that benefits both the present and future generations.
- Full accountability: Take full responsibility for the management of the forests and the products from these forests.
- Due diligence: Adopt a proactive approach to forest management and due diligence in the supply chain.
Standards of FSC™ Certification
The FSC has established standards for the following three forest resources:
Timber – The standard for timber specifies principles for the sustainable management of forests and the rights and responsibilities of forest owners and forest workers.
Forest Products – The standard for forest products includes all plant-derived materials from forests, including paper and cardboard; rubber; food, medicinal, and tropical plants; and non-wood forest products.
Plantation Forests -The standard for plantation forests specifies principles for the sustainable management of forests and the rights and responsibilities of forest owners and forest workers.
How to Become FSC™ Certified
To become FSC certified, a forest owner or operator must apply for certification and undergo an independent assessment by a certification body. Once certified, the forest owner or operator must maintain their certification through a continuous improvement process.
The forest must be monitored through a system of forest management that ensures that it is being managed according to the standard and the operator must provide information to it on an annual basis. Successful certification requires that the forest owner or operator commit to meeting the requirements of the FSC standard and the expectations of the body. It is a challenging process that requires the commitment of forest owners and operators, as well as the certification body.
Who is FSC™ Certified? Some of the world’s largest forest owners and operators have become FSC certified, including the Government of Bhutan, the Government of the Philippines, the Government of Malaysia, the Canadian Province of Ontario, and the state of Tasmania in Australia.
Many of these governments have ambitious forest conservation and replanting targets and have chosen to pursue FSC certification as one of the most effective ways to demonstrate their commitment and progress toward achieving their targets. Many of the world’s largest forest product companies have also become FSC certified, including the Finnish forest products company UPM, the Japanese paper company Nippon Paper, the Brazilian pulp, and paper company Fibria, and the American paper company Kimberly-Clark.
Benefits of FSC™ to Consumers
Consumers who purchase forest products that are FSC-certified can be sure that their purchases are contributing to healthy forests and communities and helping to protect the world’s forests for generations to come.
FSC certification provides a means for forest owners to demonstrate that they are managing their forests in a way that is beneficial to both the forest and the people who depend upon it. With the increasing demand for FSC-certified products, forest owners and operators have the incentive to convert to FSC certification. In fact, many forest owners find that certification is a a tool that helps them to expand their operations and take advantage of new market opportunities.
Challenges of FSC™ Certification
Forest owners and operators may be reluctant to pursue FSC certification for a number of reasons. One of the challenges is the time and effort required to complete the certification process.
Forest owners and operators must prepare an implementation plan and develop the capacity to manage their forests according to the standard. They must also have the commitment and capacity to maintain their certification through continuous improvement. Another challenge is the cost of certification.
Although FSC certification is not free, it is less expensive than certification through other third-party systems. However, the costs of certification are a small price to pay compared to the long-term benefits that are derived from healthy forests and a reputation for responsible forest management.
The FSC is the world’s leading certification scheme for responsible forest management. It provides a framework for businesses, organizations, and individuals to ensure their wood and paper products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.
FSC certification provides consumers with an assurance that their purchases are contributing to healthy forests and communities, and helping to protect the world’s forests for future generations. FSC certification is therefore a win-win situation for forest owners, operators, consumers, governments, and the environment.