Forest Stewardship Council

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For many years, the use of forest resources for timber products, fuel, paper and pulpwood has continued unchecked. The demand for forest products is increasing; however, globally forests are being depleted and damaged as a result. Through the non-governmental sector has emerged the concept of ‘certified forest products’. Certification in forest products is mainly a voluntary, market-based mechanism that indicates to environmentally conscious consumers that they products they are buying come from responsible managed forests.

Consumers are becoming more sensitive and concerned about the impact their purchasing decisions have on the environment. Though individual consumer demand may have a small impact on industry at the moment, buyer groups of corporate and institutional buyers of forest products (for example institutional buyers of paper or timber wood for construction projects) are expected to kick start an increasing demand for certified forest products.

The leading certification in forest management and forest products has been set up the Forest Stewardship Council or FSC. Consumers will find the FSC logo on a variety of products including household furniture, decorative items, storage equipment, crafts and toys, garden furniture, office furniture, paper and stationary items, plywood, chip board and timber for construction.


Did You Know

  • Global paper consumption is projected to grow roughly 77% by 2020. (OECD Environmental Outlook, p. 218, 2001)
  • An area of natural forest the size of a soccer pitch is cut down every two seconds.
  • More than 5,000 types of products are made from trees: houses furniture, baseball bats, crutches, fences, garden mulch, books, newspapers, carpeting and toothpaste
  • To grow a pound of wood, a tree uses 1.47 pounds of carbon dioxide and gives off 1.07 pounds of oxygen

About the Forest Stewardship Council

The Forest Stewardship Council is an international non-profit organisation which was set up in the nineties with the idea to identify well managed forests and forest products. To this end, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has created a system that develops internationally recognised standards for responsibly managed forests. The FSC runs an accreditation program for third party certification bodies based on their standards and also controls a labelling system to indicate and promote organisations and products that meet its criteria.

FSC Members

The FSC is a member based organisation. Its members represent environmental and social groups, the timber and forestry trade, community forestry groups, forest product certification organisations, indigenous people’s organisations and responsible corporations.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Mission

“The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) shall promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests”.

The FSC Principles for Forest Stewardship

At the core of the Forest Stewardship Council are its 10 principles which are key to well managed forests. They are:

  • Compliance with laws and FSC principles: The forest management should comply with all local and national laws of the country, in which they are located, as well as international agreements that are applicable, and all FSC principles and criteria.
  • Tenure and use rights and responsibilities: The long term tenure and use rights to the land (such as land titles, lease agreements and customary rights) should be clearly defined and legally established
  • Indigenous people’s rights: Forest management must respect the legal and customary rights of indigenous people to own, use and manage their land and resources.
  • Community relations and workers rights: The forest management operations should maintain and enhance the long term social and economic welfare of forest workers and local communities.
  • Benefits from the forests: The efficient use of the forest’s multiple products should be encouraged by forest management operations towards economic viability and environmental and social benefits.
  • Environmental impact: Forest management should maintain the ecological integrity and functions of the forest by conserving biological diversity, water resources, soils, fragile ecosystems and landscapes.
  • Management Plan: There should be a clearly written plan, with long term objectives and means to achieve them. This plan should be appropriate for the scale and intensity of the operation and should be kept up-to-date.
  • Monitoring and assessment: Appropriate monitoring and assessment of the condition of the forest, yields, chain of custody, management activities and social and environmental impacts. The chain of custody refers to the channel through which products are distributed from their origin in their forest to their end-use, including all stages of processes, manufacturing and distribution.
  • Maintenance of high conservation value forests: High Conservation Value Forests are those which contain global, regional or nationally significant concentrations of biodiversity values, or large landscape level forests where viable populations of most species exist in natural patterns of abundance. According to FSC principles, the management activities in High Conservation Value Forests should maintain and enhance the attributes of these forests. A precautionary approach should be taken to all decisions regarding these forests.
  • Plantations: As per the FSC, plantations must be planned and managed in accordance with FSC principles. The social and economic benefits of plantations must complement the management of, and promote the restoration and conservation of natural forests.

FSC Certification

The FSC does itself not certify adherence to its standards and principles. This maintains the integrity and independence between the FSC and the organisations applying for certification. The FSC certification is carried out by FSC accredited certification bodies.

These are two types of certificates issued by accredited certification bodies. They are:

  • Forest Management (FM) Certificate: The independent accreditation body inspects the forest management unit to ensure that the forest meets the internationally accepted FSC principles. If the forest management unit meets the required specifications, they are issued with a Forest Management Certificate. Once the unit has this certificate, they can claim that their forest is responsibly managed.
  • Chain of Custody (COC) Certificate: Before an organisation makes an FSC claim about it its products to consumers, they must have a COC certificate. This COC certificate tracks the FSC material through the entire supply chain to ensure that the product originates from FSC material, and has not been mixed with illegally harvested material at any stage. Operations that have these certificates can carry the FSC 100% label.

The Importance of FSC

The FSC differentiates itself from other initiatives and there are certain key points that indicate its importance. These are:

  • The FSC sets global standards in the field of forest management. These standards are set according to ISEAL’s Code of Good Practices in Setting Social and Environmental standards. This indicates that the process is balanced and transparent for stakeholders and not a technical barrier to trade. The FSC is recognised as an International Standard Setting Organisation by the World Standards Services Network (WSSN)
  • Since the FSC is an internationally recognised standard, governments can specify FSC certifications in their procurement policies without breeching WTO rules and is no barrier to trade.
  • The FSC has a balanced membership that well represents the economic, social and environmental interest groups.
  • The FSC principles prohibit the conversion of forests and other natural habitats and respect the rights of indigenous people.
  • The FSC principles allow the use of pesticides listed as 'highly hazardous' only temporarily and if this is justified on specified grounds (see Pesticide Policy), if adequate provisions are made to prevent, minimize or mitigate negative impacts, if alternatives are being identified, and if stakeholders have been consulted.
  • The FSC principles do not allow the cultivation of genetically modified trees.
  • The FSC requires annual audits of forest operations for the issue and renewal of FSC certificates
  • The FSC system also controls the non-certified timber content in FSC certified products. Seeing the shortages that still exist in FSC material, the FSC has introduced the ‘FSC Mixed Sources’ Label.

FSC Mixed Sources Label

Recognising the shortages in FSC material, the FSC has introduced the ‘FSC Mixed Sources Label’. This allows manufacturers to mix FSC certified material with non-certified and recycled material. However, all non-certified material must comply with FSC Controlled Wood Standards. This means that the non-certified would cannot be illegally harvested or harvested in violation of traditional and civil rights. Non-certified wood cannot be harvested from High Value Conservation Forests or from the conversion of natural forests. Non-certified wood cannot be harvested from genetically modified trees. This FSC Controlled Wood has to be verified independently before it is mixed with certified material. The proportion of FSC-certified and non-certified/recycled material used in production must be at least 70% to qualify for the ‘Mixed Sources’ label. In case manufacturers use less than 70% FSC-certified and non-certified/recycled material, but a minimum of 10%, then only a portion of the production is fit to carry FSC labelling. The recycled content must be mentioned on the mixed Sources label. In this way, the FSC maintains control over the content of the products that are being verified.

FSC 100% Recycled Label

The FSC introduced this label in 2004. This label is used to indicate products that support the re-use of forest resources and only use post-consumer recycled wood or fibre in accordance with FSC standards.


  • The business of sustainable forestry by By MacArthur Foundation, Michael B. Jenkins, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Sustainable Forestry Working Group, Sustainable Forestry Working Group
  • The Forest Stewardship Council Website
  • Why Forest Stewardship Council
  • Greenpeace - our disappearing
  • Amazing forests

See also