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FSC Certified Wood: What Is It & Should You Buy It?

Unveiling the Meaning of FSC Certification: Learn about the significance of FSC-certified wood and sustainable forestry practices. Understand how your choice in furniture can contribute to responsible and eco-friendly consumption.
FSC Certified Wood What Is It & Should You Buy It?

This Article is 100% Organic: Written and Researched by Real Humans.

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For conscious consumers, the label saying “FSC Certified” is a given on most wood products like furniture. But recognizing the label doesn’t always equate to knowing what it means. Fuzzy on what an FSC certification is and what it means to you?

Don’t worry—we’ll break down what FSC-certified wood is and what exactly sustainably grown timber means. FSC certification is a key part of buying sustainable furniture

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What Is FSC Certified Wood?

FSC-certified wood are wood and wood products that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international non-profit organization that’s become an industry leader in the promotion of responsible and sustainable forestry practices.

An FSC certification is the most widely recognized standard for ensuring wood and paper products used around the globe come from forests managed with environmental and social responsibility in mind. Receiving an FSC certification requires that a forest or forest product meets a set of strict criteria and principles outlined by the FSC.

The FSC considers a whole host of factors, such as whether or not the forest is managed with long-term health and productivity in mind, whether or not the logging is done with legal compliance, and how considerate the operation is regarding the environment and local populations. 

FSC certifications make consumers confident they support responsible and sustainable forest management practices. This is a major factor in the fight against climate change, so consumer choices have a big impact in this area. 

What is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)?

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an internationally recognized non-profit organization founded in 1993. The FSC’s mission is to promote responsible and sustainable forest management worldwide. It’s best known for its certification system, which has set the global standard for responsible forest management. 

FSC’s goal is to find a balance between the economic, social, and environmental elements of forestry that also ensures forests are managed in a way that is ecologically sustainable, socially beneficial, and economically viable. 

The organization works with governments, businesses, local communities, and other non-profit organizations to create and advocate for responsible forest management designed to protect the world’s forests and the businesses they cater to. 

FSC certifications, one of the most recognizable third-party certifications for consumer products, have helped set the standard for how forests should be managed and their resources harvested. FSC certifications are designed to encourage maximum sustainability, which means careful oversight of each step in the process of harvesting and manufacturing wood products. 

FSC relies on independent, third-party certification bodies to ensure that certified forests and companies meet FSC’s strict standards and requirements. Because of the huge variability in forests and local governments worldwide, FSC requirements can vary largely. 

FSC’s vision to create a world where forests are always mangled with the environment and local communities in mind comes from a desire to protect our planet’s delicate biodiversity

Without the wealth of unique forests across our planet, we would not have the planet we do today. However, illegal logging represents an enormous threat to our planet

Why is the FSC Certification Important?

FSC certifications are important for a lot of reasons. FSC addresses a huge range of environmental, social, and economic issues related to forestry and the production of wood and paper products. 

By providing consumers and businesses with an easy-to-recognize label, FSC certifications make it easy for customers to determine if a wood product they’re interested in purchasing has been made and sourced with ethics and sustainability in mind. 

FSC certification ensures forests are managed in a way that prioritizes their long-term health and productivity. By promoting responsible harvesting practices and reforestation, FSC contributes hugely to conserving forests and their delicate ecosystems. Protecting these finite resources is important for future generations and the health of our planet. 

Part of FSC’s certification process involves the protection of forests with high conservation value. FSC emphasizes the maintenance of these special habitats for certain plant and animal species. This management is designed to safeguard biodiversity and prevent the extinction of endangered and vulnerable species. 

FSC-certified forests and businesses work hard to minimize the negative impact of deforestation. Deforestation and unsustainable forestry practices are often associated with excessive chemical use, soil erosion, and habitat destruction.

All of these issues have a cascade effect on local ecosystems. Responsibly managed forests overseen by FSC help preserve the vital ecosystems that make these forests special.

In addition to all of these benefits, FSC certifications also promote fair labor practices in adherence with local and international law. Companies and products with FSC certifications respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities by encouraging community involvement in forest-related processes. 

What Are The Different Types of FSC Certifications?

The FSC offers several different certifications covering different parts of the forest management process and related supply chains. Some of these certifications include:

  • Forest Management (FM) Certification: This certification is for forest operations that meet FSC’s strict standards for sustainable and responsible forest management. FM certifications mean that the forests covered are managed in a way that protects biodiversity, water resources, workers, and local communities. 
  • Chain of Custody (CoC) Certification: CoC Certification covers the entire supply chain of forest products, all the way from the forest to the consumer. A CoC certification verifies that FSC-certified materials are accurately sorted and separated from non-certified materials throughout the production process. A CoC certification is mandatory for businesses that want their products labeled as FSC-certified. 

There are specific certifications consumers should be on the lookout for to find certified sustainably grown timber. These labels include: 

  • FSC 100%: This label signifies a product is manufactured with 100% of materials from FSC-certified forests. 
  • FSC Recycled: This label is used on products made from recycled materials. At least 85% of the recycled content comes from post-consumer sources. The remaining 15% can come from pre-consumer reclaimed materials. 
  • FSC Mix: This label means a product contains a mix of FSC-certified material, recycled material, and controlled wood. This label is used when a product can’t be labeled as either FSC 100% or FSC Recycled. 
  • FSC Controlled Wood: Products with this label indicate that a product may contain controlled wood, which is non-certified wood that still meets certain social and environmental criteria. 
  • FSC Pure: This label is used on products made entirely from FSC-certified wood and paper materials but may contain some non-wood materials. 

You can find these labels on various wood and paper products, including furniture, building materials, and more. 

By purchasing products with these labels, you’re supporting responsible forest management and sustainable sourcing practices. Transitioning to practices emphasizing sustainability is vital to preserving the planet’s health. 

What Are the Requirements for Obtaining an FSC Certification?

Getting an FSC certification involves meeting a bunch of specific requirements. These requirements vary based on the type of certification, so there is some variability in the process. However, all certifications include these ten criteria:

  1. Compliance with Local Laws and FSC Principles: Any forest management operation looking for an FSC certification must comply with any laws and regulations. They must also adhere to the FSC principles and criteria. 
  2. Tenure and Use Rights and Responsibilities: Forest management operations should always respect and uphold land and resource tenure and use rights of local and indigenous populations. 
  3. Indigenous Peoples’ Rights: Forest management must recognize and respect the rights, identity, and culture of any local indigenous populations and ensure they’re involved in forest-related decision-making. 
  4. Community Relations and Workers’ Rights: Forest managers must at least maintain the social and economic health of local communities by providing workers with fair wages, good working conditions, and the protection of their rights. 
  5. Benefits for the Forest: Forest management should offer an equitable distribution of benefits from the forest, including financial returns, jobs, and other benefits. 
  6. Environmental Impact: Forest management operations must avoid, minimize, and mitigate negative environmental impacts like biodiversity loss, soil erosion, and water pollution. 
  7. Management Planning: A management plan should be planned and implemented to ensure responsible forest management. 
  8. Monitoring and Assessment: Forest managers should regularly and continuously monitor the impact of their activities to improve their practices. 
  9. Maintenance and Enhancement of Forest Ecosystem Services: Forest management should maintain and enhance the benefits of the forest ecosystem, like water purification and carbon capture. 
  10. High Conservation Values: Forest managers should identify and protect areas of High Conservation Value (HCV), which includes areas with critical ecosystems, special cultural values, and other exceptional characteristics. 

FSC breaks these principles down even further into specific criteria, which provide more detailed guidance on how to ensure compliance with the principles. However, these principles offer a way to assess how well a forest management service is complying with FSC’s standards. 

How is FSC Impacting Sustainable Forestry?

The Forest Stewardship Council has played a major role in shaping the idea of sustainable forestry practices worldwide. FSC certification, based on its detailed set of principles, has become the industry’s gold standard for responsible forest management. 

By setting such stringent guidelines and emphasizing the conservation of biodiversity, FSC has encouraged forest managers to adopt environmentally and socially responsible practices, which are vital to an ethical and sustainable forest industry. 

In addition to this, FSC’s heavy emphasis on transparency and traceability throughout the supply chain has had a big impact on the sustainable timber industry. Since FSC-certified materials are tracked all the way from the forest to the final product, consumers can make informed choices and support sustainable sourcing. This has led to a greater market demand for responsibly sourced wood products, encouraging forest managers and businesses to meet these standards. 

FSC has been instrumental in driving the growth of sustainable forestry practices all over the world. Its certification standards, community involvement, and supply chain transparency have helped FSC become a force of positive change in the timber industry. 

Their efforts have helped conserve forests, protect biodiversity, and promote the well-being of both forests and the communities dependent on them. 

Furniture Brands that are FSC-Certified Furniture

1
Medley
Product image by Medley

Medley

Well-known for its commitment to sustainability and non-toxic products, Medley uses FSC-certified woods like maple and walnut for its furniture. 

2
Burrow
Product image by Burrow

Burrow

Carefully sourced to minimize waste, Burrow uses FSC-certified and recycled materials to make its beautiful (and easy-to-assemble) furniture.

3
The Joinery
Product image by The Joinery

The Joinery

Designed and built in Portland, Oregon, from FSC-certified Oregon White Oak. Anything not sourced locally comes from FSC-certified sources. 

4
Sabai
Product image by Sabai

Sabai

Manufactured in the United States, Sabai is best known for its sofas, which are manufactured with a combination of recycled and ethically sourced materials. Their frames are made with FSC-certified wood. 

5
West Elm
Product image by West Elm

West Elm

A staple for the design-conscious, West Elm is working hard to incorporate sustainable ideologies into their ethos. This includes sourcing and using FSC-certified wood for their furniture. 

FAQs

Is FSC-Certified Wood Expensive?

Yeah, FSC-certified wood tends to be more expensive than non-certified alternatives due to the additional costs associated with sustainable forest practices. However, it’s sometimes easier (and cheaper) for forest managers to get FSC-certified products onto the global market. Prices vary based on the type of wood, geographic location, market conditions, and more. 

Is the FSC Certification Mandatory?

Nope, FSC certification is totally optional. Forest managers and businesses can choose to seek FSC certification as a way to demonstrate their commitment to the environment. Getting an FSC certification also makes it easier for businesses to find buyers for their wood products. 

Who Founded the Forest Stewardship Council?

FSC doesn’t actually have a single founder. It was founded in 1993 by a group of organizations and individuals dedicated to finding a sustainable path forward for the timber industry. 

Is FSC Wood Waterproof?

No, FSC wood isn’t inherently waterproof. Whether a piece of wood is waterproof or water-resistant isn’t related to an FSC certification. An FSC certification primarily focuses on responsible forest management practices, not the natural characteristics of the wood. 

Is FSC Certified Wood Treated?

FSC-certified wood can be treated or untreated, depending on how it is processed and its intended use. FSC certification doesn’t have anything to do with wood treatments. 

Is the FSC Certification Worth It?

If you believe in preserving the planet, protecting the biodiversity of forests, and ensuring the rights of indigenous people and forest workers, yes. FSC certifications ensure forests are managed with ethics and sustainability in mind. 

Christina Boren

Christina Boren

Christina is an Alaskan-based sustainability and environmentalism writer. She’s spent nearly a decade working in industries directly related to environmentalism and sustainability, including chemical manufacturing and waste management. She holds a B.A in English from the University of Central Florida and is well-versed in what it means to be an eco-advocate.
Christina Boren

Christina Boren

Christina is an Alaskan-based sustainability and environmentalism writer. She’s spent nearly a decade working in industries directly related to environmentalism and sustainability, including chemical manufacturing and waste management. She holds a B.A in English from the University of Central Florida and is well-versed in what it means to be an eco-advocate.

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