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The FSC Certification Process: How Companies Can Obtain FSC Certification for responsible sourcing

Learn about the FSC certification system and the step-by-step procedure of acquiring FSC certification.


FSC Certification Process

In today's environmentally conscious world, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification symbolizes responsible forest management. This certification represents a commitment to safeguarding forests for future generations. Attaining FSC certification is a rigorous endeavor, marked by careful principles and adherence to strict standards. This article sheds light on the FSC certification process as well as how the FSC certification system works.


About FSC Certification


FSC certification is a comprehensive assessment of a forest's management practices, adhering to a set of strict criteria aimed at environmental, social, and economic sustainability. This certification isn't just a label; it's a testament to a commitment to preserving our planet's forests for generations to come.


10 PRINCIPLES TO GAIN A FSC CERTIFICATION


There are ten principles that any forest operation must adhere to before it can receive FSC forest management certification. These principles cover a broad range of issues, from maintaining high conservation values to community relations and workers’ rights, as well as monitoring the environmental and social impacts of forest management.

  • Principle 1: Comply with all applicable laws, regulations and nationally ratified international treaties, conventions and agreements.

  • Principle 2: Maintain or enhance the social and economic wellbeing of workers.

  • Principle 3: Identify and uphold Indigenous Peoples’ legal and customary rights of ownership, use and management of land, territories and resources affected by management activities.

  • Principle 4: Contribute to maintaining or enhancing the social and economic wellbeing of local communities.

  • Principle 5: Efficiently manage the range of multiple products and services of the Management Unit to maintain or enhance long term economic viability and the range of environmental and social benefits.

  • Principle 6: Maintain, conserve and/or restore ecosystem services and environmental values of the Management Unit, and shall avoid, repair or mitigate negative environmental impacts.

  • Principle 7: Have a management plan consistent with policies and objectives and proportionate to scale, intensity and risks of its management activities. The management plan shall be implemented and kept up to date based on monitoring information in order to promote adaptive management. The associated planning and procedural documentation shall be sufficient to guide staff, inform affected stakeholders and interested stakeholders and to justify management decisions.

  • Principle 8: Demonstrate that, progress towards achieving the management objectives, the impacts of management activities and the condition of the Management Unit, are monitored and evaluated proportionate to the scale, intensity and risk of management activities, in order to implement adaptive management.

  • Principle 9: Maintain and/or enhance the High Conservation Values in the Management Unit through applying the precautionary approach.

  • Principle 10: Ensure that management activities conducted by or for the organisation for the management unit shall be selected and implemented consistent with the organisation’s economic, environmental and social policies and objectives and in compliance with the Principles and Criteria collectively.

These ten principles collectively lay the foundation for ethical and sustainable forest management practices, reflecting FSC's dedication to ensuring the well-being of forests, their inhabitants, and the planet. Once your organization or business aligns with all these standards, you become eligible to pursue FSC certification through a streamlined five-step process. Whether you are interested in our Forest Management certification (for forest managers/owners) or Chain of Custody (CoC) certification (for businesses manufacturing or trading wood, paper or other forest-based products), the steps to becoming certified are the same.

Steps towards FSC Certification

Step 1: Request Quotes and Information from FSC Accredited Certification Bodies (and/or small business group schemes if appropriate)


In order to provide you with an initial estimate of cost and time, the certification body will require some basic information about your operation. They will then provide you with information about the requirements for FSC certification.


Step 2: Submit a certification application to the FSC accredited certification body of your choice


Decide which certification body (or small business group scheme) you would like to work with and sign an agreement with them.


Step 3: Ensure that an appropriate FM/CoC or CoC Management System is in place


This system must be in line with the requirements of the FSC Forest Management and/or Chain of Custody Standards, whichever is applicable to you.


Step 4: Undergo An On-Site Audit by Your Chosen Certification Body


Prepare for an intensive on-site certification audit conducted by the certification body you've partnered with. During this stage, your operations will be thoroughly evaluated against FSC standards. The audit's findings are documented in an audit report, serving as a pivotal reference for the certification decision.


Step 5: Gain Certification Approval


The comprehensive data collected during the audit is documented in the audit report. The certification body then evaluates this report to determine your alignment with FSC standards. A positive certification decision leads to the issuance of an FSC certificate. Alongside your certificate, you'll receive unique FSC certificate and license codes.


Additionally, your certification details are recorded in the FSC certificate database, showcasing your commitment to sustainable practices and responsible forest management.

As you join this sustainable journey, keep in mind that staying informed about the latest developments and guidelines is crucial. While this guide provides an overview, consulting official FSC resources and certification bodies ensures accurate and up-to-date information.


Understanding FSC Certification System


The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is indeed an international non-profit organization that has established a certification system aimed at promoting responsible and sustainable forest management. FSC's certification system involves the collaboration of various third-party actors to ensure credibility, transparency, and integrity in the certification process. The FSC certification process typically involves the following key actors:

  • ISEAL Alliance: is the global membership organization for credible sustainability standards. FSC and ASI are audited at regular intervals against ISEAL requirements.

  • The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): is a forest certification scheme owner. That means FSC develops standards for sustainable forestry, promoting them and cooperating with all relevant stakeholders for implementation. FSC does not issue certificates; instead, this is the role of independent and accredited certification bodies to issue certificates.

  • Assurance Services International (ASI): is FSC’s global assurance provider whose mission is to assure the credibility of voluntary sustainability standards and initiatives to deliver social and environmental impact. ASI oversees the certification activities of certification bodies to make sure that standards are implemented correctly on the ground according to the normative requirements established by FSC.

  • Certification bodies: Independent organizations who are accredited to issue and manage FSC certificates. They manage the entire certification process from pre-certification evaluation and issuing of certificates, through audits and investigations, to suspension or termination of certificates, if necessary.

  • Certificate holders: Organizations that have received FSC certification from a certification body after fulfilling all the requirements set by FSC’s certification standards. These organizations get the right to make claims about FSC certification on their products and use the FSC trademark logo by entering into a trademark license agreement with FSC.

By involving these different parties, the FSC aims to maintain the integrity and credibility of its certification system. The involvement of third-party actors ensures that assessments are conducted independently, and that the certification process remains unbiased and reliable.

For a comprehensive summary and a greater understanding of the FSC certification system, see below infographic:


FSC's Certification System
FSC's Certification System (FSC 2023)

Achieving FSC certification isn't just a one-time accomplishment; it's a journey that reflects your dedication to environmental preservation. By complying with FSC's rigorous standards and following these step-by-step guidelines, you contribute to a world where forests are managed in harmony with nature.


 

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