Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)





Based in Bonn, Forest Stewardship Council is a multi-stakeholder forest management organisation that brings together NGOs, indigenous peoples' organisations, community forestry groups, forestry professionals, timber traders, and retail companies.

The FSC label is designed to reassure the consumer that their purchase has been sourced from a well-managed forest.



Governed by its members, the FSC welcomes individual or organisational stakeholders from business and civil society. Members can join one of three chambers, focused on environmental, social and economic issues.

FSC's constitution calls for 50/50 representation from the ‘Global North’ (mostly consuming countries) and ‘South’ (mostly producing countries) in both the General Assembly, which meets every three years and the nine-member Board of Directors.

The bulk of FSC’s income stems from its accreditation programme.



FSC has several hundred members  including some very prominent international companies.

The FSC also has several high profile conservation NGO members.

As of July 2015, there are FSC-certified areas in 80 countries covering more than 180 million hectares. The bulk of these areas are in Europe or North America.


Member assessments:

FSC organises independent, third-party certification of forest areas, and uses chain-of-custody techniques to ensure that labelled products are traceable to their source.

Therefore, when a consumer purchases a product branded with the FSC label, they should be confident that it has been sourced from a well-managed forest.

There are ten FSC Principles that every forest owner or manager must comply with, and they relate to the following issues:

1) Compliance with all laws, regulations, treaties, conventions, agreements and FSC principles

2) Establishing long-term tenure and use rights

3) Indigenous peoples’ rights

4) Community relations and worker's rights

5) Fair distribution of forest benefits

6) Environmental impact

7) Management plan

8) Monitoring and assessment

9) Maintenance of high conservation value forests

10) Plantation management.



Despite receiving criticism for arguably allowing the certification of some large plantations that cannot realistically guarantee compliance, FSC is widely viewed as the most credible forest certification system.

FSC has had a mixed reaction over the years from various NGOs.

The website FSC-Watch, which is dedicated to scrutinising the FSC, is run by a group of people that includes Simon Counsell, one of FSC's founders. FSC-Watch criticises the FSC for failing to tackle structural issues related to poor governance in some forest areas, and also argues that vested commercial interests are having a growing influence over its policy.

Criticism has been made of the prohibitive expense of FSC certification, which tends to favour larger suppliers. 

FSC has also been criticised for certifying timber companies that have questionable sustainability records and for certifying vast areas of clearcutting. 



High. A consumer-facing label is placed on products sourced from FSC certified forests.

Because the FSC label is awarded on a product-by-product basis, member companies do not need to be compliant on all of their range, however.

For example, while in 2012, IKEA sourced only 22.6% of its wood from FSC certified forests, the company was permitted to highlight FSC participation on its website like other members.



There is a wealth of facts and figures relating to certified areas and suppliers, members et cetera on the FSC website. However, FSC has been criticised for not requiring full disclosure of audits results and for a general lack of transparency about the auditing process taking on the ground in forest areas.




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