Certified Wood: The Ultimate Guide You Need
Forests around the world are being destroyed at an alarming rate. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, 420 million hectares of forest have been lost since 1990, mostly in Africa and South America.
Some of this loss is due to the natural cycle of growth and decay, but much of it is because of human activities such as deforestation for agriculture, mining, and development.
However, one of the most important reasons for deforestation is the need for wood. Wood is a valuable natural resource that is used for construction, furniture, and many other products. They are sourced from forests and more often than not, these forests are not managed sustainably.
In order to protect our forests, we need to find ways to use wood that doesn’t come from forests that are being destroyed. One way to do this is to use certified wood. In this post, we will cover everything you need to know about certified wood.
What Is Certified Wood?
Certified wood is wood that comes from forests that are managed sustainably. This means that the trees are harvested and processed in a way that does not damage the forest’s ecology or ability to regenerate.
Certified wood has been verified by an independent organization to meet specific environmental and social standards.
There are now over 50 different certification programs for all types of forests and tenures. The two most important worldwide forest certification programs are the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and the FSC.
There are many different certification programs, but the most common ones are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).
Why use Certified Wood?
The need for certified wood comes from a number of different places.
Forests provide many environmental benefits, such as air purification, carbon sequestration, and habitat for native plants and animals. They are also a source of economic security, supplying wood, food, and other products.
However, deforestation is a serious concern and the main contributor to almost every negative environmental effect. Using certified wood can help prevent deforestation and its negative consequences. Because certified wood comes from sustainably managed forests, it doesn’t contribute to deforestation.
Building Rating Systems & Regulations
A number of different building rating systems and regulations require the use of certified wood. The most common ones are the LEED, Green Globes, and BREEAM certification programs.
All three of these programs have different requirements for the use of certified wood. However, one of the most common requirements is that a certain percentage of wood used in construction must be certified.
Many different organizations, such as the American Lumber Standard Committee (ALSC), have standards for certified wood. These standards specify what types of wood can be called “certified” and how it needs to be processed.
There are a number of international standards that also require certified wood, such as the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) 14001 standard.
Although there are many local standards in different parts of the world, FSC and the Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) certification is often the preferred standard.
We all have a responsibility to protect the environment. By using certified wood, we can all do our part in protecting forests and the environment.
Businesses that use certified wood can also demonstrate their commitment to the environment and social responsibility. Consumers can feel confident that they are supporting sustainable practices by buying certified wood products.
In order to inherit a healthy world for the generations to come, we all need to do our part. Certified wood is one way to make a difference.
Responsible Labor Practices
Forest certification also includes requirements for responsible labor practices. This means that workers in the forest and those who process the wood are treated fairly and with respect.
Many of the certification programs have social criteria that must be met in order to receive certification. These criteria include requirements for safe and healthy working conditions, fair wages, and no child labor.
When you buy certified wood, you can be sure that the products you’re purchasing were made with respect for the environment and the people who produced them.
What types of wood products can be certified?
All types of wood can be certified as long as it comes from a sustainable forest. This includes hardwood, softwood, and other wood products that are made from trees.
Products like lumber, plywood, flooring, furniture, cabinets, wood finished products, paper, cardboard, and cellulose insulation can all be certified as long as they come from a sustainable forest.
What is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)?
The FSC is an international organization that was founded in 1993. It has around 850 member organizations from over 100 countries. The FSC sets the highest global standard for forest management created as a response to the growing concerns about deforestation.
The FSC’s objective is to encourage sustainable forest management that is both environmentally and economically beneficial. It has published a global plan with five objectives:
- Promoting global forest management
- Assure equal access to FSC benefits
- Ensure FSC integrity, credibility, and transparency
- Create value for FSC-certified forest products.
- Boost the global network to meet goals 1–4.
These objectives are promoted, controlled, and expanded across six program areas:
- Chain of custody,
- Social policy,
- Monitoring and evaluation,
- Quality assurance,
- Ecosystem services
FSC claims sustainably managed forests offer a wide range of environmental benefits, including:
- Reduced soil erosion and landslides
- Improved water quality
- Reduced flooding
- Preservation of biodiversity
- Carbon sequestration
- Mitigating climate change
FSC addresses issues like illegal logging, deforestation, and global warming. It also helps ensure the rights of indigenous people or natural habitats living in or near forests are respected.
FSC is a worldwide membership organization governed by democracy, inclusiveness, equity, and openness. It unites forest owners, wood firms, social organizations, and environmental groups to improve forest management strategies. It’s a multistakeholder governance organization that focuses on the product.
It is run by its members, who may join as individuals or representatives of organizations from a variety of sectors, including environmental non-governmental organizations, the timber trade, community forest groups, and forest certification organizations.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a global forest certification system that certifies forests and forest products worldwide. According to the WWF, this voluntary approach is one of the more innovative environmental projects to emerge in the last two decades.
While there are numerous national and regional forest certification bodies worldwide, the FSC serves as the foundation for all forest management standards and certification.
It has ten Principles and Criteria (FSC P&C) that create the framework for the creation and upkeep of international, national, and subnational standards. This is aimed to ensure that the process of developing FSC regulations and standards is open, unbiased, and participatory.
The FSC develops national standards in specific countries besides its global certification standard. These standards are closely connected with the worldwide certification standard and its requirements, but they are tailored to the specific conditions of the local setting.
How does FSC certification work?
Forestry management certification is a voluntary procedure that verifies responsible forest management practices.
An FSC-accredited certification authority inspects the forest at the request of the forest owner or operator. Certificate holders must renew their accreditation annually and must maintain compliance.
The FSC Principles and Criteria apply to all tropical, temperate, and boreal forests, as well as many plantations and partially replanted forests.
Although FSC is primarily intended for timber harvesting, it also has criteria that apply to other forest products such as non-timber forest products (NTFPs), clean water and air, and carbon sequestration.
If the accreditation body finds that forest management is not entirely compliant with the FSC Principles and Criteria, it lists pre-conditions that must be met before the FSC certificate can be granted.
Once the pre-conditions have been met, the certification authority will reinspect the forest to ensure that these conditions have been effectively implemented and are being maintained.
The certificate might be granted with minor non-compliances that can be fixed within a specific timeframe. If the non-compliances are not corrected within that timeframe, the certificate may be suspended or revoked.
Each FSC certificate is audited at least once a year. If an accreditation body finds that the certificate holder is not in compliance with any of the FSC Principles and Criteria, it may suspend or revoke the certificate.
Chain of Custody certification
The FSC Chain of Custody (CoC) certification is an audit system that tracks the FSC-certified wood from the forest to the consumer. It verifies that the wood products carrying the FSC (CoC) label are from certified forests and that the chain of custody has been properly followed.
Once a forest is certified, it is critical to track its products along the supply chain to verify that any claims about provenance are legitimate and verifiable.
The Forest Stewardship Council’s Chain of Custody Certification is a voluntary monitoring system that allows manufacturers and traders to ensure that the wood they’re dealing with has been certified from forest to shelf.
The FSC CoC certification audits every step of the supply chain to ensure that certified wood makes it all the way to the finished product. This includes:
- Documenting the origin of each shipment of wood products.
- Tracking the movement of products from the mill to the warehouse to store shelves.
- Verifying that all participants in the supply chain are certified to FSC standards.
- Checking that products are labeled correctly and match the certification documentation.
- Maintaining records of all inspections for at least five years.
The FSC has a set of Principles and Criteria that serve as the framework for responsible forest management. These principles include requirements for sustainable forestry, the conservation of biological diversity, and respect for human rights.
The FSC also has a set of Chain of Custody Certification Standards that provide specific guidance on how to track and verify certified products.
Controlled wood certification
The FSC Controlled Wood certification is intended to control certified wood from being mixed with unacceptable material.
The Controlled Wood standard applies to wood products that are not from certified forests, such as wood taken from illegally harvested trees or plantations. However, there may be other unacceptable sources of wood as well.
For example, wood harvested in violation of traditional and civil rights, in HCV forests, or from areas planted with GM trees is also unacceptable.
To prevent certified and non-certified wood from being mixed, the FSC has created the “FSC Mix” label in 2004.
The FSC Mix label indicates that the product was made from a blend of FSC-certified, non-certified, and/or FSC controlled wood. While controlled wood is not sourced from FSC-certified forests, it reduces the possibility of the material coming from an untrustworthy source.
FSC does not conduct certification audits itself in order to maintain impartiality and avoid conflicts of interest. Instead, it relies on a global network of independent certification bodies (CBs) to carry out these audits.
These CBs must meet FSC’s stringent accreditation requirements, which include demonstrating technical expertise, independence, and a commitment to social and environmental responsibility.
The requirements that CBs must meet are confirmed by ASI (Assurance Services International) GmbH, an international assurance partner for main voluntary sustainability standards and programs like MSC and RSPO.
This involves an office audit and maybe a field audit. ASI supervises accredited certification bodies to ensure their operations are continuously up to the required standard.
Which companies would benefit from FSC certification?
The FSC CoC certification is not required by law, but many companies choose to obtain it in order to demonstrate their commitment to responsible sourcing. FSC labels are on millions of products worldwide, from toilet rolls to books to milk cartons and other food items.
The companies that are most likely to seek FSC certification include:
- Manufacturers of wood products (furniture, flooring, construction materials, etc.)
- Traders and distributors of wood products
- Retailers of wood products
- Paper and pulp manufacturers
- Agricultural product manufacturers (mulch, compost, etc.)
- Insulation manufacturers (primarily cellulose insulation)
- Packaging manufacturers (cardboard, paper bags, etc.)
All operations that want to produce or sell FSC certified products must meet FSC’s international standards for the chain of custody. Companies must specify the products they wish to offer as FSC certified and promote using the FSC trademark.
To prevent certified and recycled material from being mixed with material from unacceptable sources, the certification organization inspects the operation.
If an operation meets FSC requirements, it is awarded an FSC chain of custody certificate. Major non-compliance with the standard will usually disqualify the candidate from certification or result in de-certification.
How to interpret different FSC labels?
FSC labels provide a lot of information, including the type of wood, where it was harvested, and how it was processed. There are 3 types of FSC labels:
FSC 100% Label
FSC 100% label is given to the products that contain only FSC-certified material. This is the highest level of certification that a product can receive.
FSC Mix Label
FSC Mix Label is given to the products that contain a mix of FSC-certified, non-certified, and/or controlled wood. A product can be labeled FSC Mix if at least 70% of the wood is FSC-certified or recycled, and 30% is controlled wood.
FSC Recycled Label
FSC Recycled label is given to the products that are made of reclaimed material that was used before, such as recycled paper or cardboard.
Using the FSC Database to Find Products
The Global FSC Certificate Database provides a Product Classification tool to help identify firms and importers/exporters of certified materials and products.
You can use the tool to find certified companies by selecting product types such as “outdoor furniture and gardening” or “veneer” as well as certificate status (such as “active”), organization name, and country.
It then provides a list of businesses, product descriptions, country of origin, and other information to assist you in locating an FSC-certified item.
You can also use secondary or tertiary searches to narrow down your search for FSC-certified products. Searchers can acquire more information about the materials used in the certificate or certified products on the Product Data tab.
Is certified wood more expensive?
There is a perception that certified wood is more expensive than non-certified wood. However, this may not always be the case, as the market for certified wood is growing.
The certification costs and meeting the requirements of the FSC can be more expensive for producers, but this is often offset by increased demand from buyers.
The price of wood is primarily determined by the type of wood, geographical location, and transportation costs.
As a result, certified and non-certified wood may have comparable prices if the certified wood is sourced from a nearby city or region and the processing and transportation costs are not prohibitively expensive.
The use of certified wood is rapidly increasing as more and more people become aware of the importance of responsible forest management.
FSC-certified products must meet rigorous social and environmental standards, so you can be confident that your purchase is supporting sustainable forestry practices.
As consumer demand for certified wood increases, the availability, and variety of certified products will continue to grow. You can use the FSC Database to find certified products from around the world and make an informed decision about which items to purchase.