If you’re considering hardwood as an eco-friendly flooring option, then one thing you should be doing is familiarising yourself with the 3 letters “FSC” and what they mean. They stand for the “Forest Stewardship Council” which – although it is not the only sustainability accreditation scheme in the world – is one of the most commonly used and universally recognised accreditation used for sustainable wood products.
What is the Forest Stewardship Council?
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international non-profit organisation which aims to promote responsible management of the world’s forest and find solutions to the problems created by bad forestry practices. It encourages environmentally-appropriate forest management so that the harvest of timber products does not harm the forest’s productivity, biodiversity and ecological processes. It also ensures that forest operations are structured and managed in such a way so that financial profit is not generated at the expense of the natural resources, the local ecosystem or even the relevant communities. In addition, the FSC also promotes socially beneficial forest management – this means that local communities are incentivised to sustain forest resources and practise long-term management plans – so that both they and the wider population can enjoy benefits in the long term.
On a more practical level, the FSC oversees several beneficial programmes – for example, it helps to set international standards for responsible forest management, through consultations with member countries and local businesses; it provides accreditation to independent third party organisations, so that they can then certify forest managers and forest product producers to ensure that they are following FSC standards. Through its product label and international trademark, it also offers consumers worldwide a means to recognise products obtained through sustainable forestry and organisations which support responsible forest management. And lastly, it orchestrates marketing campaigns and provides information services to promote responsible forestry worldwide.
The FSC has been responsible for certifying over 90 million hectares of forest in over 70 countries, in the last 13 years. Meanwhile, thousands of products made of FSC-certified wood are now on the market, displaying the FSC trademark – as the FSC continues its work through its network of National Initiatives in 45 countries.
What does the FSC logo mean?
For consumers keen to be environmentally-responsible, the FSC logo offers a guarantee of sustainable practices. Products can only display the logo if they have been made of wood from a FSC-certified forest and also satisfy the FSC chain of custody standards, to ensure responsible management during the production and distribution pathway from raw material to finished product delivered to the consumer. If you see the FSC logo, you know that the wood has been legally harvested; that it has come from a responsibly managed forest; that the rights of indigenous communities and forest workers were respected; that the local biodiversity and endangered wildlife habitats were unharmed and that ecologically-friendly practices were employed throughout its production, manufacture and distribution.
The FSC does not itself carry out certification on forest operations or manufacturers but enlists the help of FSC accredited certification bodies, so that it maintains a certain degree of independence and distance between the operations seeking certification and the FSC standards and requirements. Certification consists of 2 types: the Forest Management (FM) Certificate (which depends on a satisfactory inspection of the forest management unit) and a Chain of Custody (COC) Certificate (which checks all the stages in the route from raw material to finished product, including processing, refining, transformation, manufacturing and distribution. Only if a product satisfies both counts can it display the FSC logo.
Why is the FSC unique?
The FSC is not the only forest certification scheme on the market – several other exist – however, it is unique in many ways and often the only scheme that is recommended by environmental organisations. These include:
- The only internationally-recognised standards for forest management
- The only global forest management standard that does not put up a barrier to trade; in other words, governments can ask for FSC certification in their procurement policies, without worrying about breeching World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
- The only international certification system where social, environmental and industry interests carry equal weight. It is also the only one to respect the rights of indigenous peoples.
- The only global certification system that prohibits the conversion of forests and other natural habitat, the use of toxic pesticides and the cultivation of genetically-modified trees.
- The only international certification system that audits its certification bodies, so that they have to gain FSC accreditation first themselves, by complying with an extensive set of rules and being independently verified, before they are allowed to certify others.
- Similarly, the only global certification scheme to have compulsory yearly audits of its certified forests, to ensure that they are remaining in compliance with FSC requirements.
For more information on the Forest Stewardship Council, visit www.fsc.org. Monthly updates of new certificates issued by the FSC are available on the “Certificates Lists” , in the ‘Document Centre’ section of their website.