What do FSC standards actually do?
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the world’s most trusted sustainable forest management solution, creating positive impacts on forests, markets and people – for today and tomorrow. Our mission is to promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests without compromising the health of the forests for future generations.
To achieve this mission, we set up a global certification system for forests and forest products.
This allows the general public to identify products that come from forest-friendly sources which are responsibly managed, and also incentivises more businesses and companies to achieve the FSC certification, spreading the idea of sustainability and conservation all around the world.
How does FSC set its standards?
To gain FSC certification, forests have to be managed in accordance with FSC principles and criteria (P&C), which involve a rigorous set of social and environmental guidelines. Certified forest products, on the other hand, must use materials that meet FSC standards.
FSC does not set these standards by itself – we consult our global network of members from the environmental, social and economic spheres and then make decisions together. This ensures that these standards represent the needs of all stakeholders.
While our P&Cs set out global requirements for achieving FSC forest management certification, to reflect the diverse legal, social and geographical conditions in forests in different parts of the world, the international standard for forest management needs to be adopted at the national or regional level. These adaptations are called National Forest Stewardship Standards and are developed by a body called the Standard Development Group(SDG), comprising of at least six members with forestry expertise and either social, environmental or economic backgrounds. These national standards are developed based on a set of International Generic Indicators which are derived from the P&Cs.
How is certification completed?
To ensure impartiality, FSC does not directly implement the certification process. Instead, independent certification bodies (CBs)* assess forests and forest product manufacturing processes and labelling to decide whether they meet FSC standards.
If everything is in order, the respective forest(Forest Management, FM) or forest product(Chain of Custody, CoC) will be officially certified and then awarded FSC certification, after which time the forest manager or product company will obtain FSC certification and become a certificate holder. The certification will be valid for 5 years, subject to passing the annual audit.
Constantly maintaining and improving the FSC certification scheme and the associated standards is one of FSC’s major tasks, but it is far from all that we do. From the start, we have been actively driving a more responsible and forest-friendly value chain, working with governments to provide expertise on responsible forest management, as well as working with smallholders, indigenous peoples and ethnic groups to build community forest management capacity.
*A third-party accreditation unit, Assurance Services International (ASI), is responsible for double-checking the certification process to ensure that the CBs have fulfilled their duties and complied with all relevant procedures.