What is the Forest Stewardship Council?

FSC is an international, non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world’s forests. It was founded in 1993 in response to public concern about deforestation and demand for a trustworthy wood-labeling scheme. Environmental groups including WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Woodland Trust support it. It also has a human rights stance; therefore, organizations such as Amnesty International are also supporters of FSC. How does FSC promote responsible forest management?

FSC has developed a system of forest certification and product labeling that allows consumers to identify wood and wood-based products from well-managed forests. Sustainably produced timber goes much further than focusing on the legality of timber and encompasses many more elements relating to environmental, economic and social facts and impact of your forest or company management.


Sustainable forest management has become commonplace in the market for non-tropical timber. Although the share of certified timber is growing, this is less the case in the market for tropical timber. Sustainable forest management is, however, especially relevant for tropical timber, due to concerns about deforestation and global warming.

A particularly high proportion of timber and timber products from sustainable sources is marketed in Northern and Western European countries. This proportion is still growing, but is generally lower in the market for tropical timber and tropical timber products. Some importers foresee a reduction of sales for sustainably produced timber because buyers will judge that legal is good enough, but others state that the demand for sustainable timber remains unchanged.

There are two main certifications: the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). At the moment, FSC is the most widely used scheme for certification of tropical timber forests.

How does the FSC system work?

Forests are inspected and certified against strict standards based on FSC’s 10 Principles of Forest Stewardship. These inspections are undertaken by independent organizations, such as the Soil Association, that are accredited by the FSC. In order to be given FSC certification a forest must be managed in an environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable manner. This is what makes the FSC system unique and ensures that a forest is well managed from the protection of indigenous people’s rights to the methods of felling trees. Forests that meet these strict standards are given FSC certification and the timber and timber related product allowed to carry the FSC certification.


FSC certifiers also perform audits to track the “chain of custody” of certified wood through the manufacturing process and to ensure that the rules for labeling final products with the FSC logo are followed. The FSC logo assures consumers that the products they purchase come from an industry that meets the social, economic and ecological needs of present and future generations. The purchase of products carrying the FSC logo directly supports the preservation of hundreds of millions of acres of forest around the world, and the tens of thousands of families who directly depend on them.

• Forests are certified according to FSC’s Principles and Criteria.

• Responsible management and harvesting practices are followed as trees are cut. A chain-of-custody (COC) paper trail is established.

• Harvested trees are transported to an FSC-certified mill, where logs are processed into FSC-certified lumber; COC continues.

• FSC-certified manufacturers use FSC-certified raw materials to make wood products; COC continues.

• FSC-certified products are transported to stores worldwide; COC continues

• Consumers purchase products with the FSC label; COC ends.

• Support for sound forest management grows, and the demand for FSC-certified products increases, each time this cycle is completed.