The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC)

Background - 14 September, 2015
Ecological and socially responsible forest management can, and is, being practiced worldwide. This kind of forest management seeks to ensure that the forest ecosystem is not damaged, that only low volumes of trees that can be sustained by the forest are extracted, and that the impacts on plant and animal life are minimal.

What is the FSC?

FSCThe Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC, is an international non-profit forest certification and labelling system that was established to offer a single, easily recognisable label for wood and forest products that consumers can trust. This label certifies that forest products come from responsibly managed forests.

Founded in 1993 through the collaborative efforts of more than 100 participants representing economic, social, indigenous and environmental interests, the FSC issues certificates for well managed forests.

The FSC was created to allow corporate buyers and the public to identify products coming from responsibly managed forests, with the aim of redirecting the forest products industry towards more sustainable paths.

The FSC has grown rapidly since it began. It has over 800 members in over 80 countries on 5 continents - from large players in forestry to smaller companies, from community forestry groups to indigenous peoples' organisations, from environmental organisations to progressive forestry and wood retail companies - all working in a balanced partnership to improve forest management worldwide. Greenpeace is a founding member.

With certified forests in 80 countries on 5 continents, FSC is the leading standard for responsible certification. Currently, 7% of the world’s forests area - around 180 million hectares (roughly the same size as Indonesia) as of 14 June 2013 - are FSC certified.

Small and community producers manage 24% of all FSC Forest Management certificates.

Support for the FSC label is high among major purchasers and retailers of forest products, but the tens of billions of dollars of demand for FSC products still far exceeds supply. And sustainable management of the world's ancient forests is still the exception rather than the rule.

How does the FSC work?

The FSC oversees third party, voluntary certification of forests. The certifications cover all types of situations, including community and group certifications, natural and semi-natural forests, government owned forests and plantations.

The FSC certification also means that the forest has been independently inspected and evaluated for compliance with local laws, respect for indigenous and traditional peoples rights, the health, safety and rights of forest workers, and the provision of a wide range of social benefits.

Working together to improve the FSC

Established nearly 20 years ago, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is widely recognised as the highest global certification standard for forest management. But, as the FSC has been growing rapidly, there is also a growing level of weak interpretation of FSC standards and gaps in the system, which is resulting in an increasing number of certificates being awarded to controversial forest management operations that shouldn’t be in the system.

To keep FSC certification as a credible tool to help protect forests, Greenpeace is publishing a series of case studies to expose controversial operations that are posing the greatest risk to the FSC’s integrity. We are also highlighting best practice operations that are meeting and/or exceeding the FSC’s principles and criteria. These case studies will show the standards that must be consistently met if the FSC is to maintain its credibility.

The FSC must address its gaps and strengthen the certification process to prevent any more certificates from being awarded to operations that fail to meet FSC standards, as well as removing bad operations from its system until they sufficiently reform their practices.

A powerful group of large retailers have expressed their strong support for the FSC to continually improve its system in order to reinforce its position as the global standard for forest management and wood fibre certification. Long-term FSC supporters such as, Marks & Spencer, IKEA, Kingfisher and Tetra Pak, believe that if the FSC is able to resolve some key areas of concern as raised by Greenpeace, then FSC certified products will continue to enjoy the market benefits of using the FSC label with the full support of major environmental and social organisations.

The FSC needs to apply its world-leading criteria consistently in order to maintain the integrity of the FSC brand.

FSC supporters need to work together to keep the FSC strong as it continues to grow.

Keeping the FSC credible

Weaker certification schemes

Greenpeace considers other schemes such as PEFC (The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) and MTCS (Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme) as fake forest certification labels and systems. These schemes are controlled by and for the forestry industry and their loose rules do not provide any assurance in the ability of these schemes to halt natural forest conversion, biodiversity loss and the violation of indigenous peoples' rights. The other systems lack robust requirements to protect social and ecological values.

What you can do

Strong public demand and pressure from non-governmental organisations, combined with real commitments from corporate buyers to purchase products only from FSC certified forests is one way to help stop ancient forest destruction and promote ecologically and socially responsible management of the world's forests.

Whether you are buying as an individual or as a company, demand products from FSC certified forests and insist the product has an FSC label. Find out more here.

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