The RIC Good Wood Guide

The Forest Stewardship Council

(See also FAQs, below)

The Forest Stewardship Council is an international non-profit organisation founded in 1993 to support environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world's forests.

It is an association of Members consisting of a diverse group of representatives from environmental and social groups, the timber trade and the forestry profession, indigenous people's organisations, community forestry groups and forest product certification organisations from around the world. Membership is open to all who are involved in forestry or forest products and share its aims and objectives.

FSC is run on a day-to-day basis from a head office in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico, by an executive director and eight full-time staff. It is controlled by an elected Board which consists of people from industry, conservation groups, indigenous people's representatives and scientific groups.

The Forest Stewardship Council is introducing an international labelling scheme for forest products, which provides a credible guarantee that the product comes from a well managed forest. All forest products carrying the FSC logo have been independently certified as coming from forests that meet the internationally recognised FSC Principles and Criteria of Forest Stewardship. In this way FSC provides an incentive in the market place for good forest stewardship. The forest inspections are carried out by a number of FSC accredited certification bodies, which are evaluated and monitored to ensure their competence and credibility. FSC also supports the development of national and local standards that implement the international Principles and Criteria of Forest Stewardship at the local level. These standards are developed by national and regional working groups which work to achieve consensus amongst the wide range of people and organisations involved in forest management and conservation in each part of the world. FSC has developed Guidelines for developing regional certification standards to guide working groups in this process.

The Forest Stewardship Council has developed rigorous procedures and standards to evaluate whether organisations (certification bodies) can provide an independent and competent forest evaluation (certification) service. This process is known as 'accreditation'. FSC-accredited certification bodies are required to evaluate all forests aiming for certification according to the FSC Principles and Criteria for Forest Stewardship. All accredited certification bodies may operate internationally and may carry out evaluations in any forest type. Certified forests are visited on a regular basis, to ensure they continue to comply with the Principles and Criteria. The performance of the certification bodies is closely monitored by FSC. Products originating from forests certified by FSC-accredited certification bodies are eligible to carry the FSC-logo, if the chain-of-custody (tracking of the timber from the forest to the shop) has been checked.

There is huge public concern about the destruction of the world's forests. More and more people demand products that come from well-managed forests. This demand has led to many different labels on forest products, making claims such as 'for every tree felled at least two are planted'. Many of these claims are irrelevant or misleading. An authoritative study by the Worldwide fund for Nature (WWF) found that of a sample of 80 different environmental claims found on wood and paper products, only three could even be partially substantiated. FSC aims to clear up the confusion by providing a truly independent, international and credible labelling scheme on timber and timber products. This will provide the consumer with a guarantee that the product has come from a forest which has been evaluated and certified as being managed according to agreed social, economic and environmental standards.

Frequently Asked Questions about the FSC

How and when was FSC formed ?

A group of timber users, traders and representatives of environmental and human-rights organisations met in California (USA) in 1990 to discuss how they could combine their interests in improving forest conservation and reducing reforestation. Their meeting confirmed the need for an honest and credible system for identifying well managed forests as acceptable sources of forest products. It was from these beginnings that FSC has developed.

In September 1993 in Toronto (Canada) 130 representatives from around the world came together to hold the Founding Assembly of the Forest Stewardship Council. In October 1993 an agreement was reached to launch FSC, and by August 1994 a definitive set of Principles and Criteria, together with the Statutes for the Council were agreed and approved by the votes of the Founding Members.

How is FSC funded ?

FSC is funded by charitable foundations, government donors, membership subscriptions and accreditation fees. To ensure its independence it does not accept funding from industry. Until now funding has been received from the Austrian, Dutch and Mexican governments, the European Commission, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, WWF-Netherlands, IUCN-Netherlands and SSNC (Swedish Society for Nature Conservation). In the near future FSC expects to develop a system to obtain royalties for the use of its logo.

What is forest certification ?

Forest certification is the process of inspecting particular forests or woodland to see if they are being managed according to an agreed set of standards.

What is chain of custody ?

Chain of custody is the process by which the source of a timber product is verified. In order for products originating from certified sources to be eligible to carry the FSC Trademark, the timber has to be tracked from the forest through all the steps of the production process until it reaches the end user. Only when this tracking has been independently verified, the product is eligible to carry the FSC logo.

When will FSC-endorsed wood products be available in the shops?

A growing number of products are already available, such as wooden kitchen utensils, doors, frames etc. As more forests are certified, the number of products will rapidly increase.

Who supports the FSC ?

FSC is the only organisation offering a credible worldwide timber certification scheme for all forest types and plantations, and as such has already received endorsement and active commitment from a wide range of respected NGOs, including WWF, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace. Furthermore, FSC has the support of a large and growing number of companies, who have united themselves in various countries into 'buyers groups'. The members of such buyers groups have committed themselves to selling only independently certified timber and timber products within 3­5 years. The FSC-labelling scheme is the preferred scheme for buyers groups in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Brazil, USA and Japan.

This unprecedented alliance of major companies, NGOs and a host of other supporters around the world, means that the commercial, social and environmental impact of the FSC Trademark on timber-based products is going to be enormous and unavoidable.

What is the difference between the FSC and ISO ?

FSC's scheme is based on specified performance standards, that need to be met by the forest operation before a certificate is issued. The environmental management system standard from ISO (ISO 14000 series) is a process standard. It specifies how a company's management system must be organised to address environmental aspects and impacts of its operations. ISO certification does not result in a product label. FSC and ISO are fully compatible and can be complementary. ISO standards can provide the framework and control mechanisms for the management system, within which the FSC standards serve as the target performance level.

The FSC accreditation system is based upon the relevant ISO guides. 

Will FSC really make a difference ?

Yes. Through the FSC Trademark the public will at last have a way of identifying that the product they are purchasing originates from a forest or woodland which is managed according to internationally agreed social and environmental principles and criteria. A MORI poll conducted in 1990 showed that 80% of the consumers would buy 'green' products given the choice. The FSC Trademark will give them that choice with timber-based products.

Go to TOP of PAGE