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Industry-specific standard - FSC for a sustainable forestry

Posted by Bertrand Duteil on 24/11/2016

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The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international non-profit organization running an independent certification organisation for sustainable forestry. The organization based in Bonn was founded in 1998 and nowadays includes more than 800 members in 80 countries. The FSC International works as an umbrella organization with transnational principles and standards. The concrete implementation of new measures and standards is done by national organizations.

Basic principles of the FSC

The FSC was founded to promote an environment-friendly, socially responsible and economically stable forest management. The goal is to sustainably save and protect forest ecosystems. The FSC guidelines are based on 10 international principles and more than 50 criteria shaping the background of every standard and certification of the organisation.

Every FSC certification are based on the 10 following principles:

1- Compliance with all applicable laws and the FSC principles
2- Estate entitlement, land use rights and responsibility
3- Respect of indigenous people’s rights
4- Community relations and worker’s rights
5- Maintain and enhance long-term benefits from the forest
6- Limit the environmental impact and protect ecosystems
7- Management plan
8- Monitoring and assessment
9- Maintenance of high conservation value forest
10- Plan and manage plantations

The FSC standards and certifications:

There are different standards and certifications existing to best fit to all sectors related to wood and forestry.

  1. Forest Management
    • Forest Management Certification: this certification is issued to forests following the FSC criteria
    • SLIMF Certification: For small or low-intensity managed forest under 100 hectare
  2. Chain of Custody certification (COC)
    Every company in a production chain must guarantee, that every material used are identified as FSC certified material. This certification is then attributed to companies using FSC certified material and documenting their supply chain to prove the FSC quality of the material.

  3. Controlled Wood
    Mix-Standard: This certification is made for products which are only partly made from FSC certified material. The rest of the material must nevertheless match several requirements to get the FSC Mix label on the final product.

The FSC Labels

The FSC comes in three different labels to identify the end products. Only certified companies are allowed to display this labels on their products.

  • FSC 100%: This label is used on products made from material exclusively from FSC certified forests.
  • FSC-Mix: This label is used on products made of at least 70% of FSC certified and/or recycling material. The rest material must come from controlled sources.
  • FSC Recycling: This label is used on products exclusively made of recycled material.

The different FSC certifications existing are especially adapted to the requirements and needs of the following sectors:

  • Saw mill and planing mill
  • Pallet manufacturer
  • Woodworking industry
  • Carpenters and cabinetmaker
  • Carpentries
  • Timber trade
  • Paper industry and trade
  • Printing plant, publisher and bookbinderies
  • Wood products import - export

The certification process is operated by an independent control body. The certifying company has to be controlled by an auditor and to receive the certification once all requirements are met. The FSC certificate is valid 5 years and requires a new control every year.

Organization of the FSC

The FSC is governed by three chambers: environmental, economic and social. The members of the organization can apply to all three chambers and defend there the interests of the group. Among the different members and stakeholders, representatives of the woodworking industry and of environmental associations, organisations of the indigenous people or groups of communal forestries are all working together for the FSC. Each chamber has at its disposal a third of votes. All three chambers must participate in votes and a decision cannot be taken if a chamber is completely against it. Thanks to this system, every stakeholder has the same weight in the decision making process,

History of the FSC Standard

The genesis of the Council goes back to the Earth Summit of Rio in 1992, also known as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), where the basic principles for a sustainable forestry were first discussed. Even if the Agenda 21 developed several measures within its development and environmental action program for the 21st century, no standard setup and monitoring instrument for a sustainable forestry could be decided on. As a result, the FSC has been founded as a non-profit organization to support trade unions and the representation of indigenous people interests with the help of different environmental organizations such as WWF or Greenpeace.


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