The FSC certification (Forest Stewardship Council) is one of the most well-known and widely used sustainability certifications in the world. You will have likely seen their label on a number of the paper and packaging products you use yourself every day. With the mission of protecting the forests of the world and driving sustainable forestry practices they now call thousands of companies their clients.
This article will explore how to receive the FSC certificate so you can decide if it’s a good fit for you and your business. Being an Amazon Climate Pledge Friendly partner the FSC certification will qualify you for receiving the green badge on Amazon that comes with several benefits.
Before we dive into the details let’s look at the history of FSC. It’ll be important to know that we can trust the quality of the certification and, if you’re going to invest time and money, that it will be around and valuable for decades to come.
About the FSC Certification
The Forest Stewardship Council was founded in 1993 after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio failed to come to an agreement to stop deforestation. In response, a committed group of businesses, environmentalists and community leaders banded together to create a revolutionary concept: A voluntary, market-based approach that would improve forestry practices worldwide.
Today, 30 years later, they count 228 million hectares of certified forests and thousands of certifications and promotional license holders. Among the license holders, you can find major brands like L’Oreal, Nestlé and many more.
The FSC standards principles
The FSC standards focus on the following principles:
- Compliance with laws
- Workers’ rights and employment conditions
- Indigenous peoples’ rights
- Community relations
- Benefits from the forest
- Environmental values and impact
- Management planning
- Monitoring and assessment
- High conservation values
- Implementation of management activities
The FSC label is mainly used on timber and non-timber products, from paper and furniture to medicine and jewellery. It aims to give consumers the option of supporting responsible forestry.
There are three different labels that FSC provides for their partners:
All the materials are sourced from forests that have been audited by an independent third party to confirm they are managed according to FSC’s standards. Of all the FSC labels, FSC 100% contributes most directly to FSC’s objective.
Products that bear this label have been verified as being made from 100% recycled content (either post-consumer or pre-consumer reclaimed materials). The use of FSC Recycled products can help to alleviate the pressure of demand on sources of virgin material, thereby helping to protect the world’s forests.
Products with this label are made using a mixture of materials from FSC-certified forests, recycled materials, and/or FSC-controlled wood. While controlled wood is not from FSC-certified forests, it mitigates the risk of the material originating from unacceptable sources.
This is what the FSC Mix label looks like on the packaging of one of FSC’s biggest clients, L’Oréal:
How the FSC Certification Process Works in Detail
FSC provides two different ways to get involved with them:
- If you are looking to have your forest certified, you will aim for their certification.
- If you want to use already finished FSC-certified products like packaging, you want to get their promotional license.
Since most brands we work with will be looking to use the FSC label in the context of sourcing already finished material like packaging we will focus on detailing the promotional licensing process.
You can find the details on the FSC forest certification here.
Before you start FSC’s promotional license process you have to ensure that you source your products from a certified supplier. If you would like to check your suppliers’ certifications you can use FSC’s validation tool.
These are the 4 steps to receiving FSC’s promotional license:
After your local FSC office approves your application you will receive access to FSC’s trademark portal where you can download the labels and label usage requirements.
The license will be valid for one year.
In this article we have outlined why it’s so important to put effort into selecting the right sustainability certification. With the FSC promotional license, your main challenge will be to change your suppliers which can be a costly and lengthy process that will directly influence your products’ quality.
Have a look at the Better World Products certification framework to help you see if FSC’s promotional license is the right one for you.
Fees & Involvement
If you already source FSC-certified products the involvement and fees are relatively simple, you only have to fill out FSC’s application and provide details about which supplier you are using. There will be an annual administration fee that varies depending on your country and how many products you want to license.
For the UK the fee ranges from 90GPB to 750GPB/year.
If you don’t source FSC-certified products already the involvement will be higher since you have to switch suppliers which likely comes with higher prices and more time involved to choose the supplier and smooth out processes.
The time needed for FSC to review your application depends on the number of products you seek licensing for. Most likely it will take a few weeks.
For filling out the application you will only need a few hours (depending on the number of products as well).
Certification Popularity & Trend
FSC is one of the most recognized sustainability certifications worldwide. Popular brands that use their label include L’Oreal, Nestlé and many more.
Here is an overview of FSC’s impact:
Because of their significant presence in all countries, the FSC certification is suited for all main markets. This is reflected by the number of FSC-certified products in different Amazon marketplaces:
- Amazon US = > 1,000 products
- Amazon DE = > 1,000 products
- Amazon UK = > 2,000 products
The FSC certification is a product certification, mainly for wood products and wood-derived products, but it also extends to products close to wood like Brazil nuts. The certification or rather promotional license will be interesting for you if you sell:
- Paper or paper products (including packaging)
- Wood products (like furniture, jewelry, wooden cooking utensils, etc.)
The FSC certification focuses on improving forestry practices for more sustainable forest usage, better alignment with the communities living in and from the forests and conservation of the natural ecosystem in it.
Because most products use some sort of wood-derived packaging the label is suited for all brands even if their core product does not use wood.
Getting the FSC license provides these direct and indirect benefits to your brand:
- Signalling you care about sustainability even if you don’t have a certification for your core product (yet)
- Eligibility for Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly program
Target Audience Fit
Because of FSC’s global popularity, the certification is suited for all locations and all demographics. Even less environmentally conscious people may have heard of the certification.
Be aware that FSC, just like all major sustainability organizations, has been criticized by various environmental organizations. Accusations include favouring big companies over small ones, corruption and practices that are not protective enough. A highly environmentally conscious audience might not resonate with you using the label and view it as “greenwashing”.
The Rainforest Alliance was founded in 1993 which brings the certification age to 30 years. It makes it one of the oldest sustainability certifications.
Fit to Current State of Product
If your current product does not source FSC-certified ingredients you have to undergo the process of changing your suppliers which might lead to changes in quality, reliability, prices, etc. If a supplier loses their certification for some reason that also means you have to change suppliers yet again.
In case you’re looking to only certify your product’s packaging the required changes to your overall supply chain and production process are relatively minor compared to a certification that impacts your core product.
The FSC certification as one of the oldest sustainability certifications is a great option for your brand to show you care about sustainable forestry practices while keeping involvement to get the certification relatively low.
In this article we have explored:
- What is the FSC certification, who is behind it and what are the details?
- Why is the promotional license likely to be a better fit for you and how does the process work in detail?
- What does the Better World Product certification framework applied to the FSC certification look like?
Hopefully this article brings you one step closer to choosing the right sustainability certification. If you have further questions about the FSC certification, you can contact your local representative HERE.
Are you wondering if you make the most out of your Amazon sales? Feel free to reach out to us HERE.