Forest Stewardship Council
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international not-for-profit, multi-stakeholder organization established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world’s forest
A forest, also referred to as a wood or the woods, is an area with a high density of trees. As with cities, depending where you are in the world, what is considered a forest may vary significantly in size and have various classification according to how and what of the forest is composed...

s. Its main tools for achieving this are standard setting
Standards organization
A standards organization, standards body, standards developing organization , or standards setting organization is any organization whose primary activities are developing, coordinating, promulgating, revising, amending, reissuing, interpreting, or otherwise producing technical standards that are...

, independent certification and labeling of forest products. This offers customers around the world the ability to choose products from socially and environmentally responsible forestry
Forestry is the interdisciplinary profession embracing the science, art, and craft of creating, managing, using, and conserving forests and associated resources in a sustainable manner to meet desired goals, needs, and values for human benefit. Forestry is practiced in plantations and natural stands...


Deforestation issues addressed by FSC certification

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization
Food and Agriculture Organization
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is a specialised agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and...

 of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

, half of the world’s forests have already been altered, degraded, destroyed or converted into other land uses. Much of the remaining forests today suffer from illegal exploitation
Illegal logging
Illegal logging is the harvest, transportation, purchase or sale of timber in violation of laws. The harvesting procedure itself may be illegal, including using corrupt means to gain access to forests; extraction without permission or from a protected area; the cutting of protected species; or the...

 and otherwise poor management. FSC was established as a response to these concerns over global deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....


FSC is a global forestry certification systems established for forests and forest products. This voluntary mechanism can be regarded as one of the more interesting initiatives of the last decade to promote better forest management. Many alternative national and regional forest certification bodies also exist around the globe.

Forest management according to FSC’s internationally recognized standards delivers environmental services to local and global communities, including clean air and water, and contributes to mitigating the effects of climate change. FSC directly or indirectly addresses issues such as illegal logging
Illegal logging
Illegal logging is the harvest, transportation, purchase or sale of timber in violation of laws. The harvesting procedure itself may be illegal, including using corrupt means to gain access to forests; extraction without permission or from a protected area; the cutting of protected species; or the...

, deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 and global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 and has positive effects on economic development, environmental conservation, poverty alleviation and social and political empowerment.

FSC is an international association of members. It is a platform for forest owners, timber industries, social groups and environmental organizations to come together to find solutions to improve forest management practices. FSC works to ensure the permanent existence of forest areas through responsible forest management and conservation.

Moreover, the idea of the FSC logo is to guarantee that the product comes from responsible sources—environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable. The FSC label can be found on a wide range of timber and non-timber products from paper and furniture to medicine and jewellery. The logo empowers consumers to express their demand in the market for responsible forestry by offering an independent, global and credible label for forest products. According to Greenpeace
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, The Netherlands...

, consumers can choose forest products with the confidence that they are not contributing to the destruction of the world’s forests.

FSC Governance System

The FSC works outside of state regulations and is an example of a non-state market driven (NSMD) form of environmental governance
Environmental governance
Environmental governance is a concept in political ecology or environmental policy related to defining the elements needed to achieve sustainability. All human activities -- political, social and economic — should be understood and managed as subsets of the environment and ecosystems...

. This means that it uses the market to drive a sustainable management
Sustainable management
Sustainable management takes the concepts from sustainability and synthesizes them with the concepts of management. Sustainability has three branches: the environment, the needs of present and future generations, and the economy...

 of forests. As Cashore (2002) observes the FSC NSMD network does not have the political authority of a traditional nation state and no one can be fined or imprisoned for failing to comply with the regulations. In addition, governments are forbidden from being members of the FSC and only act as the land owner. The authority of the FSC is determined by the approval of external audiences, such as environmental NGOs.

The FSC Label means that rather than the state, consumers are used to create shifts in industry and regulate the negative environmental impacts of deforestation. The FSC Label ‘works’ by providing an incentive in the market place for responsible forestry as they offer manufactures a competitive advantage and thereby increases market access to new markets and maintains access to existing ones. These methods are often used because of allegations of ‘state failure’ for managing the environment. Thus, market based methods are seen as one of the most effective and efficient ways to meet environmental goals. The market, operating under neoliberalism
Neoliberalism is a market-driven approach to economic and social policy based on neoclassical theories of economics that emphasizes the efficiency of private enterprise, liberalized trade and relatively open markets, and therefore seeks to maximize the role of the private sector in determining the...

, is seen as the key mechanism for producing the maximum social good and governance networks are seen as the most efficient way to regulate environmental concerns.

The FSC transnational NGO network demonstrates theories of global governance
Global governance
Global governance or world governance is the political interaction of transnational actors aimed at solving problems that affect more than one state or region when there is no power of enforcing compliance. The modern question of world governance exists in the context of globalization...

, more specifically in governance network theory. The FSC is an example of how network governance
Network governance
Network governance is "interfirm coordination that is characterized by organic or informal social system, in contrast to bureaucratic structures within firms and formal contractual relationships...

 can create change in industry and encourage organizations to improve the sustainability of the forestry industry. As Bäckstrand (2008) states, the FSC governance network brings together private companies, organizations and civil society in a non-hierarchical fashion, to voluntarily address certain goals. According to governance network theory, actors in the network are dependent on each other and collaborate to reach specific goals, through exchanging information or resources. The FSC governance system has checks at local, national and international levels which mean the FSC has advantages over existing governmental arrangements, as it includes interests regardless of their geographical location. The FSC uses governance networks because they increase the quality of environmental goals due to knowledge sharing, and coordination is improved through a shared perception of what the goals entail. Therefore, governance networks improve the effectiveness of the policy outcomes as well as the policy process. Moreover, knowledge sharing and collaboration enables the FSC network to deal with complex and interrelated issues.

However, there are some critiques of network governance. Network governance theory suggests that partnerships should be equal; however inequalities of power within networks can result in hierarchical relationships determined by more dominant actors. This may be seen within the FSC as global actors may have a stronger influence than smaller stakeholders, therefore the FSC governance network may not represent all participants fairly. Furthermore, actors in networks operate as representatives of certain groups but also as individuals with their own agendas and values, and members in the FSC network are usually motivated by pragmatic rather than moral considerations. Moreover, Sorenson and Torfing (2005) argue that for governance networks to achieve their goals they should be controlled by democratically elected politicians, whereas in the FSC network there are no democratic elections.


FSC is supported by some NGOs such as the World Wide Fund for Nature
World Wide Fund for Nature
The World Wide Fund for Nature is an international non-governmental organization working on issues regarding the conservation, research and restoration of the environment, formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States...

, Greenpeace
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, The Netherlands...

, though a growing number of environmental organizations, including FERN
FERN is a Dutch foundation created in 1995. It is an international non-governmental organization to keep track of the EU’s involvement in forests and to co-ordinate NGO activities at the European level...

 and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation have resigned from FSC.

Numerous governments worldwide have strengthened market-based incentives for timber certification by providing tax benefits to certified companies, referencing certified products as requirements in their procurement policies and supporting projects linked to FSC through their international development agencies. Companies also choose timber certification as a tool to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.

FSC is a member of the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling (ISEAL) Alliance, an association of voluntary international standard setting and certification organizations focused on social and environmental issues. Since 2006, FSC complies with ISEAL’s Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental standards, aimed at assuring high standards for credible behavior in ethical trade.


FSC-Watch offers extensive and detail criticisms of FSC that can be reviewed on their website.

A number of well-known NGOs have canceled their support for FSC in recent times, most importantly Friends of the Earth UK or Robin Wood, as well as the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and smaller groups such as ADEGA The FSC has been harshly criticized by its founding member Rainforest Foundation for being the "Enron
Enron Corporation was an American energy, commodities, and services company based in Houston, Texas. Before its bankruptcy on December 2, 2001, Enron employed approximately 22,000 staff and was one of the world's leading electricity, natural gas, communications, and pulp and paper companies, with...

 of Forestry".

The Rainforest Foundation
The Rainforest Foundation
The Rainforest Foundation Fund is a charitable foundation dedicated to the preservation of the rainforest by defending the rights of the indigenous peoples living there....

 has suggested that the FSC does not properly control the accredited auditors (or certifiers), after investigating a number of certified forests in six countries. The FSC reviewed the certificates under question, and showed that some of the initial investigations were justified, so removed the license to certify from the Thai company Forest Industry Organisation. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation claims that the number of violations of laws and standards accepted by the FSC makes its certification just a form of greenwashing.

The EcoEarth/Rainforest Portal has publicly questioned the FSC-endorsed policy of old-growth forest logging. They assert that research does not support the idea that this type of logging is carbon positive or sustainable and supplies research, though these views are disputed.

Critics are encouraged to file complaints and disputes against FSC in case of any differences. However, complainants must meet a number of conditions to be able to file complaints. For example, "only FSC members in good standing may file a dispute", and a deposit of a security of 1.000 USD is required. It is disputed whether the FSC takes effective action even in the case of some formal complaints.

Facts and figures

In December 2008, some 107 million hectares were certified to FSC’s Principles and Criteria in 78 countries. Roughly 1/3 of this area is certified to so-called "interim standards", with two-thirds being certified to national standards. Around 12.000 FSC Chain of Custody certificates are active in 81 countries. Companies committing to FSC including home-improvement or DIY companies, publishers, retailers amongst many others. The FSC website has statistics on regional distributions, ownership and forest type and numbers of FSC certificates representing all valid forest management and chain of custody certificates. Only continuous compliance can assure that certificate holders can keep their certificates. Certificate holders are charged annual fees to renew their acceditation, and Chain of Custody holders face an escalating cost, or 'licence fee', depending on how many times they wish to use the FSC logo on end products. As of 2010, there were close to 20,000 companies producing or dealing with products certified to the FSC standards

FSC is just one of the forest certification systems that exist today, there are many national and some international alternatives, such as SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative
Sustainable Forestry Initiative
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative is a 'forest certification standard' and program of SFI Inc., a non-profit organization. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative is the world’s largest single forest certification standard by area....

) in North America, and PEFC - Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (which started in Europe and is now global).

As of 5/12/2011, FSC entered into a strategic partnership with GreenWizard, Inc. to allow architects engineers and contractors to search through manufacturers products that included FSC certifications.

Global and local

FSC is a global action network. While the FSC International Center is based in Bonn
Bonn is the 19th largest city in Germany. Located in the Cologne/Bonn Region, about 25 kilometres south of Cologne on the river Rhine in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, it was the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 and the official seat of government of united Germany from 1990 to 1999....

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, it has a decentralized network of National Initiatives and Regional Offices that develop standards and promote FSC certification in many countries around the world. National Initiatives are the foundation of the FSC network making FSC more accessible and locally appropriate.

FSC standard development

FSC has 10 Principles and associated Criteria that form the basis for all FSC forest management standards. FSC International sets the framework for developing and maintaining international, national and sub-national standards. This shall ensure that the process for developing FSC policies also to and standards are:
  • Transparent: The process for developing policies and standards is clear and accessible.
  • Independent: Standards are developed in a way which balances the interests of all stakeholders - social, environmental and economic - ensuring that no one interest dominates.
  • Participatory : FSC strives to involve all interested people and groups in the development of FSC policies and standards.

Based on the FSC Principles and Criteria, FSC has developed more specific standards for national or regional contexts, specific forest types and for specific other forest products such as non-timber forest products (Brazil nuts, bamboo), but also other forest benefits, such as recreation and conservation. In countries where these standards are not yet developed, certification bodies can adapt their generic standards - approved by FSC - to local conditions. Certification bodies will then certify forests according to the standards that they have created themselves. These standards are called ‘locally-adapted generic standards’ or ‘interim standards’ and make up the majority of FSC's standards. FSC is in the process of creating its own generic standards to increase consistency and robustness of the FSC system globally.

FSC forest certification requirement

With its 10 Principles and 56 associated Criteria, FSC offers a comprehensive set of universally applicable requirements for responsible forest management. The aim is to ensure that forest resources are managed to meet the social, economic and ecological needs of present and future generations.

The FSC Principles and Criteria apply to all tropical, temperate and boreal forests and many to plantations and partially replanted forests. Though mainly designed for forest management for timber products, they are also largely relevant for non-timber products (e.g. Brazil nuts) and other environmental services such as clean water and air and carbon sequestration. The FSC Principles are a complete package and their sequence does not represent an ordering of priority.
Principle 1: Compliance with all applicable laws and international treaties.
Principle 2: Demonstrated and uncontested, clearly defined, long–term land tenure and use rights.
Principle 3: Recognition and respect of indigenous people’s rights.
Principle 4: Maintenance or enhancement of long-term social and economic well-being of forest workers and local communities and respect of worker’s rights in compliance with International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions.
Principle 5: Equitable use and sharing of benefits derived from the forest.
Principle 6: Reduction of environmental impact of logging activities and maintenance of the ecological functions and integrity of the forest.
Principle 7: Appropriate and continuously updated management plan.
Principle 8: Appropriate monitoring and assessment activities to assess the condition of the forest, management activities and their social and environmental impacts.
Principle 9: Maintenance of High Conservation Value Forests (HCVFs) defined as forests containing environmental and social values that are considered to be of outstanding significance or critical importance.
Principle 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.

Forest management (FM) certification

Forest management certification is the basic building block of the FSC system. It is a voluntary process for verifying responsible forest practices in all types of forests and plantations across the world. It is up to a forest owner, or representative of a group of forest owners and operators, to initiate the certification process by requesting an independent certifier to inspect the forest and to see if the management meets the FSC requirements for certification. Only FSC accredited certification body can evaluate, monitor and certify companies to FSC standards.

A certificate is awarded for good management practices that include strong social, environmental and economic activities. All FSC certified management practices must comply with the social and environmental standards of the FSC Principles and Criteria. This requires that forest management is compliant with national legislation, respects local use rights and indigenous peoples’ rights, maintains the ecological functions of the forest and its biodiversity, enhances the economic viability, and carries out adequate management planning and monitoring of the operation.

FSC accredited certification bodies certify and audit each individual forest management operation. If the forest management is in full compliance with FSC requirements, the FSC certificate is awarded. If the forest management is not fully compliant, pre-conditions are noted which must be fulfilled before the FSC certificate can be awarded. If minor non-compliances are noted, the certificate can be issued with conditions that have to be met within a clearly determined timeframe.

FSC regulations are unclear about genetically modified trees, while they state 'NO' in the overall procedure, they do allow GM trees in research areas on plantations.

Once certification is awarded, FSC accredited certification bodies audit each FSC certificate at least once a year. If during these audits the certification body finds that a company has non-compliances with FSC requirements, Corrective Action Requests (CARs) are issued and the company is required to make the prescribed changes within a given timeframe or else it will lose its FSC certificate. Depending on the seriousness of the infringement the timeline can go from one year for minor administrative infringements to immediate action for major infringements.

Chain of custody (CoC) certification

Once a forest is certified it is important to be able to trace the products that come from it throughout the supply chain to ensure that any claims on the origin of the product are credible and verifiable. The FSC chain of custody certification is a voluntary process. FSC chain of custody is a tracking system that allows manufacturers and traders to demonstrate that timber comes from a forest that is responsibly managed in accordance with the FSC Principles and Criteria. It tracks the flow of certified wood through the supply chain and across borders through each successive stage - including processing, transformation and manufacturing - all the way to the final product. It is up to a company to initiate the certification process by requesting the services of an independent certification body to inspect its internal tracking procedures. Only FSC-accredited certification bodies can evaluate, monitor and certify companies to FSC standards.
FSC Controlled Wood
FSC Controlled Wood applies to timber and non-timber forest products. It helps manufacturers and traders to avoid that the material they source comes from:
1. Illegally harvested forests
Illegal logging
Illegal logging is the harvest, transportation, purchase or sale of timber in violation of laws. The harvesting procedure itself may be illegal, including using corrupt means to gain access to forests; extraction without permission or from a protected area; the cutting of protected species; or the...

2. Forests in which violation of traditional and civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

3. Forests in which High Conservation Values are threatened by management activities;
4. Natural and semi natural forests where conversion occurs; and
5. Forests in which GMOs
Genetically modified organism
A genetically modified organism or genetically engineered organism is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one...

 are used.

All operations that want to produce an FSC certified product or want to make corresponding sales claims must comply with FSC’s international standards for chain of custody. An operation must specify the range of products they wish to sell as FSC certified and promote with the FSC trademark. The certification body inspects the operation to ensure that controls are in place to identify eligible sources for the specified product range and to prevent certified and recycled material from mixing with material from unacceptable sources. If an operation complies with FSC standards, the company is issued an FSC chain of custody certificate. Major failure to comply with the standard will normally disqualify the candidate from certification or lead to de-certification.

The FSC ‘Mixed Sources’ label allows manufacturers to provide FSC labeled products that include a minimum of 50% of "FSC input", with FSC input being defined as both timber from FSC-certified forests, but also recycled content, with the remaining material complying with the FSC Controlled Wood standard. Besides addressing international concerns on illegal logging, FSC Controlled Wood includes a balanced consideration of key social and environmental issues which ensures a minimum performance level on the ground. Thus it is ensured that certified material does not mix with material from unacceptable sources - illegally harvested, or resulting from forest conversion areas where high conservation values are threatened, genetically modified
Genetically modified organism
A genetically modified organism or genetically engineered organism is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one...

 trees are used or social conflicts occur.

Only FSC chain of custody certified operations can promote their products with the FSC trademarks and only for the particular range of products they have specified. A company can promote its certified products through on-product labeling, advertising material or business-to-business communication. While the FSC market share is growing rapidly on a global basis, the FSC label provides a credible link between responsible production and consumption.


To maintain independence between the standards it sets and the operations seeking certification, FSC does not conduct certification audits itself. FSC has developed rigorous procedures and standards to evaluate whether organizations of certifiers (certification bodies) can provide independent and competent evaluation (certification) services. This process is known as ‘accreditation’.

A potential certification body must gain FSC accreditation to be able to evaluate, monitor and certify companies to FSC standards. To become FSC accredited, certifiers have to comply with an extensive set of rules and procedures which are verified by Accreditation Services International, ASI (a wholly owned and controlled subsidiary of the FSC. Traditionally, FSC International and ASI are headed by the same person). This includes an office audit and the witnessing of one or more trial audits in the field. ASI monitors accredited certification bodies to ensure the appropriateness of their operations can be continuously guaranteed.

To control the continued implementation of FSC rules and procedures, every year ASI conducts at least one office and one field audit for each FSC accredited certification body. The exact number and distribution of ASI audits takes a number of complex settings into account (geographic areas, policies or products that carry increased risk) and the number of FSC certificates handled by an accredited certification body and is meant to ensure that the certification services delivered by the certifier meet the requirements of the FSC.

Some summaries of ASI surveillance audits are publicly available on the ASI website. If an FSC accredited certification body is found to not fully comply with FSC rules and procedures, Corrective Action Requests (CARs) are raised. These have to be fulfilled within a well defined time frame. Depending on the seriousness of the infringement, the timeline can vary from one year to three months or even immediately. A certification body will be suspended and lose its FSC accreditation if it fails to comply with FSC requirements within the required time.

The FSC label

FSC Labels
FSC 100% label: Products carrying the 100% FSC label come only from well-managed forests that have met FSC’s high social and environmental standards.
FSC mixed sources: Products with a Mixed Sources label support the development of responsible forest management worldwide. The wood comes from FSC-certified well-managed forests, recycled material and/or controlled wood which come from non-controversial sources.
FSC recycled: Products with 100% Recycled label support the re-use of forest resources which helps to reduce the pressure on natural forests.

The FSC logo is a branded trust mark that identifies responsible forest management in the market place. It empowers consumers to make responsible purchasing decisions on forest products.

All forest products with the FSC label carry a guarantee to consumers that the product comes from responsible sources. An FSC certified product can only carry the FSC logo if the production chain can be fully and reliably traced from the forest through each and every processing stage all the way to the shelf. There are three FSC labels: FSC pure, FSC mixed sources and FSC recycled.

To check whether an FSC label is valid, the certificate number on the label can be verified by reviewing the FSC certificates list or the FSC on-line certificate database.

FSC Trademark

FSC owns three trademarks:


2. The initials "FSC", and

3. The "checkmark-and-tree" logo.

Any users of these trademarks must have a license and comply with guidelines and regulations set by FSC.

FSC Friday

FSC Friday is a once-a-year-event dedicated to the celebration of forests around the globe, and the promotion of responsible forest management worldwide. The first international FSC Friday took place in Bonn on 25 September 2009. On FSC Friday, people are invited to investigate what’s in their shopping basket, and look for the FSC logo. Events related to FSC Friday take place around the world with companies and supporters promoting the FSC logo and what it stands for. FSC Friday in 2010 took place on the 24th September and the following week. Events take place at FSC certified forests, schools, universities and community centers around the world, including the United Kingdom, Austria, South Africa, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, France, India, Wales, Switzerland and Singapore.


The expenses for a successful certification of forest management must be divided into
  • the costs for an enhancement of sustainability
  • the costs for audits (these are controlled by third parties)
  • secondary costs (e.g. losses of stumpage revenues)

According to an evaluation by the Savcor company (a large service provider in forestry), the costs for direct audits in Nordic countries can effectively become marginal. In Nordic countries competing PEFC-certification appears to have slightly slower costs. They are decreasing with increasing audited territory due to effects of economy of scale, and can differ between 2,50 € and 0,25 € per ha.

On the other hand, preparation of the first or pre-audit requires a considerable amount of resources. A forest management plan must be compiled, which requires a lot of data on tree species and other plants, age distribution, annual increment and many more. While this information is often easily available in European countries, where forests have been managed for many decades, such taxations have never taken place in the large forests of developing countries.

All together, the Savcor company estimated the effective costs for FSC certification in Nordic countries between 2.6 and 19.1 €/ha.


Tropical deforestation as a global concern rose to prominence in the 1980s and can be somewhat attributed to a fight for action by environmentalists and northern countries over the need to protect tropical woodland. Prior to this, a number of other economic and regulatory mechanisms such as financial aid, policy frameworks and trade conventions were established in the fight against deforestation. These include the International Tropical Timber Agreement (1983), the Convention of International Trade on Endangered Species (1975) and the Global Environment Facility
Global Environment Facility
The Global Environment Facility unites 182 member governments — in partnership with international institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector — to address global environmental issues....

 (1991). Despite the increased level of concern on the run up to the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, tensions between the North and the global South over access to finance and technology for the preservation of forests protracted negotiations. Although many Northern countries had hoped for a legally binding convention the resulting Statement of Forest Principles represents the “mean position of the lowest common denominator” and is voluntary. Disappointed with the outcome of the Earth Summit, NGOs such as WWF-International began to turn their attention to industry for a more meaningful governance orientated resolution to the problem of deforestation.

In the lead up to the Earth Summit, social groups, NGOs and industries were also beginning to consult on the issue of deforestation. In America the consultation process that eventually lead to the establishment of the FSC was initiated in 1990 and concluded in the confirmation of support for the development of a voluntary worldwide certification and accreditation governance system that would cover all forest types. In the UK, NGO WWF began to facilitate action through the establishment of the 1995 Group, recruiting organisations that had been spurred on by instances of direct action and boycotting over the sale of tropical wood to form an NGO-Business partnership. Through stakeholder involvement it became apparent that a standard setting body would be required to verify the source of wood products and define sustainable forest management. After 18 months of consultation in ten different countries the Forest Stewardship Council was finally established in 1993.

The failure of Governments to reach any notable form of consensus in the form of an internationally reaching and legally binding agreement although causing disillusionment also created an opportunity for change through the involvement of civil society and business actors to form “soft law". As such the establishment of the Forest Stewardship Council as the response to this disillusionment also represents a global shift from Government to Governance and its creation is a primary example of the use of market and economic factors to create movement on a global environmental issue. The evolving historical context in which the FSC was formed is theorised to reflect a much broader skepticism towards state power and as a consequence a shift away from traditional state-centric forms of regulation. That said, although the FSC transcends national boundaries, the state continues to play a part in the regulatory landscape of the domestic forest and as such the FSC must develop appropriate domestic governance to reflect this.

Despite Rio’s aims, nature’s treasures continued to perish and this still holds true today. According to FAO statistics, 13 million hectares of natural forests are destroyed
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 each year. Initiatives from governments and international organization did not manage to end the plundering. The need to substantially improve forest management practices persists. It is important to understand that deforestation is not only driven by non-sustainable methods of forest management, but also by urban development, illegal logging, land conversion, forest fires, and climate change.


FSC is a membership-based organization with a governance structure based on participation, democracy, equity and transparency.

FSC has three levels of decision making bodies: The General Assembly, the Board of Directors and the Executive Director.

The General Assembly is the highest decision-making body in FSC and is made up of the three membership chambers, each of which are equally represented by the global north and south: environmental, social and economic. The chamber structure maintains the balance of voting power between different interests without having to limit the number of members.

Every three years, all members representing different interests from all over the world are unified by their commitment to the FSC's mission. Each General Assembly represents an opportunity for everybody to share, learn, establish new alliances and exchange and explore business opportunities to create a better future of the forests.

The FSC Board of Directors equally represents the social, environmental and economic interests of FSC members for both the global North and South. These nine individuals – members and advocates of FSC - are elected by members from their respective chamber.

The Executive Director, accountable to the FSC Board of Directors, runs FSC on a day to day basis with the support of a multi-cultural professional team.

Competing certification schemes

There are a number of certification schemes for forest management. The main competing forest certification system is the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), established by a number of stakeholders, including associations of the forest industry, pulp-and-paper production and forest owners in response to the creation and increasing popularity of FSC.

While the FSC scheme offers customers confidence about the chain of supply, processes and imply a business with ethics, some critics say they share a linked set of weaknesses, notably that they are not suited for small businesses, that they are anti-competitive, and in a wider view counter-ecological.
  • Only large businesses with rigid structures can afford the process of assessment and maintenance of the schemes. Small business could well afford to act with responsible attitude to ethical issues – having fewer investors and being less profit driven, than larger on where borrowing, level of investment and shareholders drive the business to work to harsher realities.
  • Anti-competitive as it favors larger firms over smaller ones
  • Counter-ecological as it promotes a model of a few massive suppliers, by making the smaller companies unable to compete as they are not able to tick the boxes that assessed schemes provide. For example: Does your company comply with ISOxxxx and FSC?
  • With fewer local companies goods have to travel farther, and the resources and skills of local communities degrade.

In response to these criticisms, to make certification more accessible to small and medium sized businesses, FSC instituted the Small and Low Intensity Managed Forests (SLIMF) initiative, and group certification. SLIMF adapts the FSC system to the realities and needs of small and low intensity forest operations by offering special streamlined procedures, with less rigorous requirements for a number of its forest management criteria. SLIMF are defined as forests of 100 hectares or less, though in some countries such forests can be as large as 1000 hectares. Group certification allows a group of forest owners to share certification costs. In December 2007 more than one in seven FSC certificates were community owned forests. Group certification has been very successful in Switzerland . In Brazil, the largest certified community forest is FSC certified. SLIMF and group certification allow FSC to promote responsible forest management in small-scale forests as well as large ones.

Assessments and supporters

External links

Asia & Oceania:


The Americas:
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