Founded in 1993, the FSC is a non-profit initiative for responsible forest management, developed in partnership with industry, social and environmental groups. The Council developed the first large certification scheme for sustainable forest management and aims to improve social and environmental practices in forest management worldwide.

In September 2012, some 165 million hectares were certified to FSC’s Principles and Criteria in 80 countries. Around 24,000 FSC Chain of Custody certificates were active in 107 countries.

The FSC does not, itself, certify forest managers and companies, rather it accredits certification bodies to do so. The certification involves product labelling, making it possible for consumers, as well as buyers, to recognise FSC-products, demonstrating that they have been produced in a responsible manner. The FSC standard is performance based and requires effective, specifically described and verifiable measures to ensure sustainable forest management.

The system provides for two types of certification: forest management certification, which ensures that a forest area or plantation is managed to high standards covering social, environmental and economic issues; and chain of custody certification, which traces the wood from those forests through all stages of processing and distribution.

The FSC forest management standard is based on ten principles:

  1. compliance with all applicable laws and international treaties;
  2. demonstrated and uncontested, clearly defined, long-term land tenure and use rights;
  3. recognition and respect of indigenous peoples’ rights;
  4. maintenance or enhancement of the long-term social and economic well-being of forest workers and local communities and respect of workers’ rights in compliance with International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions;
  5. equitable use and sharing of benefits derived from the forest;
  6. reduction of the environmental impact of logging activities and maintenance of the ecological functions and integrity of the forest;
  7. an appropriate and continuously updated management plan
  8. appropriate monitoring and assessment activities to assess the condition of the forest, management activities and their social and environmental impacts;
  9. maintenance of High Conservation Value Forests (HCVFs), defined as environmental and social values that are considered to be of outstanding significance or critical importance; and
  10. 10) in addition to compliance with all of the above, plantations must contribute to reduce the pressures on and promote the restoration and conservation of natural forests.

Wood and paper processing companies can be required by their buyers to use inputs that are FSC certified. This means that a supplier needs to obtain the FSC Chain of Custody certificate (CoC). This so-called CoC certification refers to the path taken by raw material from being harvested from an FSC-certified source through processing, manufacturing, and distribution until it is a final product ready for sale to the end consumer.

Read more on FSC standard in Sustainability Map a very detailed database on private standards- that covers:

  • Self-Assessment Tool
  • Relevance of the standard for specific markets (regional and product filter)
  • Requirements

                Detailed by dimension of the standard:

  • Environment
    • Forests
    • Inputs
    • Biodviversity
    • Waste
    • Water
    • Energy
  • Social
    • Human rights and Local Communities
    • Labour practices (employment)
    • Labour practices (human development and social dialogue
  • Economic
    • Economic viability
    • Supply chain responisbilities
  • Quality
    • Product / service quality management
    • Food management systems
  • Ethics  
    • Ethics and Integrity

- Process of implementation of the standard

  • Audit details
  • Conformity Assessment procedure
  • List of Verification and Certification bodies
  • Duration of audit
  • Frequency of surveillance audits
  • Requirements for group certification
  • Process for getting verified/certified
  • Policy for Labelling
  • Eligibility – who in the value chain can join
  • Costs and Fees