Among the various bodies working to preserve natural resources, one has been working to protect forests worldwide for many years. The Forest Stewardship Council is the guarantor of sustainably managed forests. The FSC label takes into account different criteria at the international level to certify environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable operations around the world.
The origins of the FSC label
In the 1990s, various stakeholders in the timber sector met in California: forest owners, traders, and representatives of non-governmental organizations united by the same concerns. This first meeting marked the beginnings of the FSC movement, whose goal is to find solutions to the massive deforestation and environmental and social crises it generates. The idea of an independent and international forest certification followed, notably through the United Nations Conference on the Environment in 1992. But it was not until 1993 that the founding assembly of the Forest Stewardship Council took place in Canada.
The first FSC administration was created in Mexico in 1994 before being transferred to Germany in 2003. The organization’s mission is to promote responsible forest management through 3 fundamental pillars, which are
1. Ecologically appropriate management, so harvesting does not impact biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
2. Socially beneficial structures that respect the recommendations of the ILO (International Labor Organization) and protect the rights and customs of indigenous peoples.
3. Economically viable operations to prevent forests from being replaced by other crops for greater profitability.
To enforce these principles, the NGO Forest Stewardship Council has established a democratic governance system with three representative chambers. The social chamber comprises forest workers, representatives of local populations, and indigenous peoples. The economic chamber includes forest owners and operators, industrialists, and brands. And the environmental chamber comprises scientific experts, associations, and NGOs. This cooperation between actors with very different interests is the strength of the FSC, which now has over a thousand members in 90 countries.
This governance model is applied in the various national offices to adapt the forest management standards to the realities on the ground.
The 10 principles of the Forest Stewardship Council
Given the diversity of the world’s forests, the international organization FSC has developed a universal framework. It is adjusted according to national and regional issues by more than 70 criteria considering the differences in ecosystems and forestry methods.
The FSC international specifications include 10 major principles of responsible management to be applied:
1. Respect for the laws in force in each country concerned.
2. Respect for the conventions of the ILO to promote workers’ social and economic well-being.
3. Support for the rights of indigenous peoples.
4. Maintaining or improving relations between forest management operators and local communities.
5. Maintaining economic viability through the benefits generated by the forest.
6. Preserve biodiversity and ecosystems through environmental values and impact measures.
7. Management planning in consultation with stakeholders to define long-term objectives.
8. Monitoring and evaluating practices regarding the quality and quantity of forest products.
9. Identification and preservation of High Conservation Values.
10. Implementation of management activities consistent with environmental and social values.
These international generic indicators are then adapted to each country or region’s specificities to meet the social, ecological, and economic needs of current and future generations.
What are the different FSC certifications?
The FSC label provides several certifications allowing companies and consumers to make informed and responsible choices when purchasing.
– FSC 100% indicates that the entire product is fiber from FSC-certified forests.
– FSC Recycled means that items are made from 100% recycled materials, including paper products and some wood items.
– FSC Mixed is used for products made of fibers that come partly from FSC-certified forests, recycled wood, and virgin wood from controlled origin.
A compliant label must include the following:
– The original logo, including the tree, the “trademark” symbol, and the initials FSC
– The type of label among the 3 certifications (100%, Mixed or Recycled)
– The FSC license number
Depending on the space available and the manufacturer’s wishes, it is also possible to mention the FSC international website and the sentence referring to the type of certification (“from well-managed forests” or “for responsible forest management”).
How are FSC certifications awarded?
To obtain FSC certification, forest owners or managers must pass an initial audit. Before contacting an approved certification body, operators are invited to read the requirements of the label. This allows us to highlight the points already observed and those to be worked on to avoid non-conformities.
When the audit is positive, the FSC certification is granted for 5 years with annual monitoring of the maintenance of good practices. The operation receives a license number and is listed in the info.fsc.org database.