Frequently Asked Questions
At FSC, we work hard to develop the world’s most trusted responsible forest management standards. Transparency is essential to trust. Please find answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) we receive. Still have questions? Send us a message on our Contact page.
FSC® stands for Forest Stewardship Council®, an international non-profit organization that promotes the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC is supported by many of the world’s biggest and most progressive brands. In Canada, FSC is also supported by top environmental groups.
The goal of FSC is keep forests for all forever because in addition to forests being incredibly beautiful, they also purify the air we breathe, filter the water we drink and provide critical habitat to 80% of the animals that live on land. Forests also sequester carbon dioxide making them an essential natural solution in the fight against climate change.
It is essential that we responsibly harvest and care for our world’s forests, which is why FSC was founded.
FSC develops requirements that forest managers follow to responsibly manage forests.
These requirements include strict environment standards, the protection habitat for rare and endangered species, and demand that Indigenous Peoples’ rights and worker’s rights are upheld.
In 2020 there are an estimated 221 million hectares of FSC-certified forests worldwide. The certification system is transparent, rigorous and credible and is democratically developed with the support of 1,152 members in 89 member countries
FSC was officially founded over three decades ago, in 1993. But FSC’s origins date back to 1990 when a group of concerned timber consumers, traders and representatives of environmental organizations met in California to see how they could help stop deforestation and environmental degradation.
They envisioned a forest management system that would:
- identify well-managed forests in a credible and independent way
- establish them as the source for sustainable wood products
- change the landscape of sustainable forestry for the long term
In 1993 after intensive consultations in ten different countries, FSC was officially born with its founding assembly taking place in Toronto, Canada.
The requirements to obtain the FSC certificate are divided into five practical steps:
- Contact FSC accredited certification bodies (and/or small business group schemes if appropriate) to request quotes
- Submit a certification application to the FSC certification body of the applicant’s choice
- Ensure that an appropriate FM (Forest Management) / CoC (Chain of Custody) or CoC Management System is in place.
- Undergo an on-site audit by the applicant’s chosen certification body
- Gain certification approval
Along with these five steps, forest management companies must meet their standards and rules in order to be approved and must comply with all ten of FSC’s guiding principles before being approved.
The materials used by the applicant to manufacture its products can’t be sourced illegally, using any practices that violate human rights or from a forest with genetically modified trees.
The process of getting FSC-certified is achievable, but rigorous, which is precisely why FSC is considered the world’s most trusted responsible forest certification system.
If a brand or retailer wants to buy and promote FSC-labeled products they can apply for a promotional license. This allows them to carry the label and promote products using the FSC logo, without going through the FSC certification process themselves.
When you see the FSC label on a product you can trust that the material used in its production comes from responsibly managed forests and or recycled materials. However, not all products have the same label.
Each certified product will have one of three different FSC labels depending on the materials used to create the product. These labels help consumers easily identify the origin and composition of the materials used to manufacture an FSC-certified product.
- FSC 100%: all the wood, fiber, or material in the product comes from FSC-certified forests, a.k.a FSC virgin fibers.
- FSC recycled: as the name implies, it means that the product is made purely from recycled materials, either pre- or post-consumer reclaimed wood, materials, or fibers.
- FSC MIX: all the materials in the product comes from a mix of FSC virgin fibers and controlled virgin fibers (which, while not sourced from FSC certified forests, reduce the risk of the material being sourced irresponsibly) or recycled material.
Each product with the FSC label will also have an FSC licence code (e.g. FSC-C000000). This code must be listed. Consumers can verify the validity of the licence and where is comes from by simply entering the number in FSCs database and pressing search!
FSC Certified Wood guarantees the customer that the wood (or wood-derived) products have been obtained from responsibly managed forests. FSC prohibits illegal logging and deforestation, upholds Indigenous Peoples’ rights, requires that nearby communities are engaged and consulted, and protects the habitat of rare and endangered species.
Additionally, FSC also has CoC Certification (Chain of Custody Certification), which makes traceability of wood and its derivatives from sustainably managed forests possible at all stages of processing, i.e., from forest to shelf. This traceability is based on monitoring the sourcing of the material, its identification, and subsequent separation from non-certified and uncontrolled materials, all the way to the finished and transformed product.
FSC-certification is voluntary, but while products do not need to be FSC-certified it can be a great advantage over its competitors.
Today’s consumers are increasingly looking for information about the sustainability of the products they buy and want to ensure they do not contribute to deforestation. FSC provides third-party proof that the manufacturers commitment to sustainable forest management is real and can be trusted.
In fact, this was proven by a study by Globescan, which revealed clear results across 13 different countries: over 80% of the customers interviewed stated that it’s of utmost importance for brands that produce wood products to ensure their environmental responsibility towards forests.
Consumers have the power to drive real change through their purchase decisions. By choosing FSC-certified products, you are helping to drive positive change in the forest.
The benefits of buying FSC-certified products go hand in hand with FSC’s requirements to:
- protect critical habitat for rare + endangered species including Woodland Caribou
- maintain or enhance the social and economic well-being of workers and local communities
- uphold Indigenous Peoples’ rights
Products made using FSC certified materials tend to be in the same price range as those that aren’t certified. See for yourself by looking through our directory of FSC-certified products.
Whether you’re looking for garden furniture, nightstands, or chairs, you can find FSC-certified furniture in our shopfsc.ca directory which includes brands like West Elm, Pottery Barn and Molo.
Before embarking on your next DIY wood project be sure to check for FSC-certified materials. You are likely to find them at your local DIY or hardware stores like RONA and Home Depot.
You can also use this simple search engine to find FSC-certified wood near you. Just select what type of buyer you are, what products you need, and where you need them. This tool makes responsible DIY’ing as easy as 1‑2‑3.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: FSC Canada would like to thank Candice Batista at The Eco Hub for supporting the development of our FAQs.