What Does FSC Mean? A Closer Look at FSC Certification

FSC Timber

If you've been shopping for garden furniture, you may have noticed that some items are marked “FSC Certified.” But what does FSC certification mean? Is it important? Is Wheelie Bin Storage Direct FSC certified? (No, find out why below). We've got everything you need to know right here.

What Does FSC Stand For?

FSC stands for the Forest Stewardship Council. This is a non-profit agency that works to protect forests around the world. By using rigorous measures, the FSC ensures that any product stamped with its seal of approval is environmentally sound.

What Does the FSC Do to Protect the Environment?

The FSC does many things, but what concerns you as a shopper is ensuring that wood stamped as FSC-certified comes from a responsible and renewable source. To get the FSC stamp of approval, companies have to prove that they are managing their forests responsibly (not just cutting down trees where and when they feel like it) and that they are also replacing the trees they cut down with new ones. This is much better for the environment.

In addition to this basic task, the FSC also has a few other rules that companies must abide by to get that FSC stamp:

  • Natural forests can only be converted into plantations for tree-cutting under stringent conditions
  • Forest managers are required to protect trees and forests that are endangered or rare
  • Companies must respect the rights of any aboriginal peoples in and around the forest site
  • Trees may not be genetically modified in any way

How Does Non-FSC Certified Wood Hurt the Environment?

Wood harvested without considering environmental concerns has a significant impact on the world around us. For example, wood may not be renewed, meaning new trees aren't planted to replace those being cut down, leaving us with a shortage of timber. Cutting may not be considered good practice, meaning land erodes where trees are cut down, and no new crops or trees can be planted. Or perhaps indigenous people are moved against their will, or areas of importance are desecrated. An FSC-certified product will have none of these effects.

How Do I Know if Wood is FSC Certified?

The FSC has a rigorous process for ensuring all its conditions are met. Companies are frequently inspected, and the FSC has a “chain of custody”, meaning that wood is tracked from the forest, through the manufacturing process and to the store to ensure that the wood is genuinely from an FSC-certified source.

As a consumer, you know that wood is FSC-certified because the wood or furniture you buy will be stamped with the FSC logo. Having said this, there are three different FSC logos that you might see, and each means something different:

  • FSC 100% means that 100% of the wood used comes from an FSC-certified source
  • FSC Recycled implies that all the wood or paper in a product comes from reclaimed sources (i.e. has been recycled)
  • FSC Mixed means that at least 70% of the wood used comes from FSC-certified sources or is recycled

Is FSC the Only Environmentally Responsible Option?

There are other non-profit agencies and companies like the FSC. However, the FSC is the largest company, meaning there are more products FSC-certified than those certified by other agencies. Also, the FSC is the only responsible forestry agency that environmental agencies like the WWF, Greenpeace, and the Woodland Trust support.

How Do I Get FSC Certified Timber or Products?

The good news is that finding products with the FSC stamp is easy. The FSC is such a significant organisation that its approved products make it to shelves worldwide. Home improvement stores or timber yards should have a full range of FSC-certified products. And no matter whether you're shopping for garden benches or fencing, you should be able to find the furniture you need with an FSC stamp of approval. You can also use the FSC database here to find products and companies that are FSC-certified.

Wait, Does it Cost More?

FSC-certified timber or products should not cost more than products from other sources of similar quality. The FSC is a non-profit agency, so getting the FSC stamp does not increase the price of a product.

Does It Work?

According to some large environmental agencies like the WWF, the FSC works. They claim forests and companies under the control of the FSC are healthier and have less negative impact on the environment through erosion than forests not controlled by the FSC.

However, The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) has also been under scrutiny, facing substantial criticism for allegedly exacerbating deforestation despite its mandate to ensure sustainable forestry. Critics argue that due to inconsistent enforcement of its standards, the FSC certification is sometimes granted to companies with unsustainable practices, inadvertently leading to accelerated deforestation and misleading consumers.

According to a report from Earthsight, the FSC's credibility has been eroded by various scandals linked to environmental and human rights abuses. The report notes that the FSC has certified many operations engaged in illegal logging, land grabbing, and the destruction of high conservation value forests, causing devastating impacts on local communities and biodiversity. These alleged malpractices have led some critics to accuse the FSC of facilitating ‘greenwashing' for companies looking to improve their public image superficially without genuinely committing to sustainable and ethical practices. These controversies have fostered distrust and scepticism among consumers and environmental advocates.

Is Wheelie Bin Storage Direct Certified?

Wheelie Bin Storage Direct has decided not to seek an FSC licence. However, our commitment to genuine sustainability and ethical practices in material sourcing stands firm.

Why We Haven't Sought an FSC Promotional Licence

An aspect of the FSC certification that often goes under-discussed is the “promotional licence” requirement. This stipulation mandates that not only should the product itself be FSC certified, but any retailer or seller wishing to promote the product as FSC certified must also obtain a separate licence.

At Wheelie Bin Storage Direct, we find this requirement somewhat perplexing. The primary value of FSC certification lies in the assurance that the product adheres to strict environmental and ethical standards. This value should inherently pass along the supply chain, from the producer to the final consumer, without necessitating additional certifications at each transactional stage.

To draw an analogy, this situation would be akin to asking customers to purchase their own licence to tell their friends or neighbours that their purchase is FSC certified. We believe this undermines the very principle of easy consumer access to ethically sourced products. Our goal is to make sustainable choices straightforward and transparent for our customers, not encumbered with additional layers of licensing that might confuse or deter them from making environmentally responsible decisions.

Therefore, while we fully support and advocate for sustainable forestry and FSC's principles, we have chosen not to seek an FSC promotional licence. Our commitment to sustainability and responsible sourcing remains unwavering, and we continue to ensure that our products align with these values, even if we are unable to use the FSC certification in our promotions directly.

So, is FSC Certified the Way to Go?

As always, it is imperative to do your research. However, given that wood from FSC sources is unlikely to cost more than any other wood, choosing FSC-certified products is usually a good option. Garden furniture shopping is a lot about aesthetics, what will look good on your property, and what will fit the space you have. But a small part of your buying decision should also centre around the environmental impact of choosing wooden furniture. In many cases, you'll be making an environmentally sound choice by selecting an FSC product.

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