To begin, could you explain what FSC is and why it exists?
Forests are under threat and disappearing at an alarming rate. Deforestation accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than the global transport sector. Finding a balanced way to both use and protect our forests is critical. The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) is an international, non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world’s forests.
FSC runs a global forest certification system with two key components: Forest Management and Chain of Custody (CoC) certification. This system allows businesses and consumers to identify, purchase and use wood, paper and other forest products made with materials from well-managed forests and/or recycled sources. FSC-certified forests must be managed with due respect for the environment, the wildlife and the people who live and work in them. This holistic approach ensures that a forest is well-managed, from the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights to the methods of felling trees.
What exactly is Chain of Custody Certification and why is important?
FSC CoC certification ensures that FSC materials and products have been checked at every stage of processing, so customers purchasing products sold with FSC claims can be confident that they are genuinely FSC-certified. Any company involved in the processing or transformation of FSC-certified products must be FSC-certified in order to apply an FSC label to their products and/or sell them with an FSC claim.
Retailers who buy finished, FSC labelled packaging from an FSC-certified company do not normally need their own FSC CoC certification, but may apply to FSC for a trademark licence to enable them to use the FSC trademarks to further promote the FSC status of their packaging off-pack.
The environmental aspect aside, how would CoC be of value to those working in paper-based packaging?
FSC-certification can help businesses to demonstrate that they have met customer expectations, bring improved market access, enhance public image and ensure CSR compliance. Both FSC-certification and FSC trademark licences enable companies to use the iconic FSC trademarks and grant access to the FSC marketing toolkit.
Does displaying the FSC logo have a marked effect on people’s purchasing decisions?
FSC UK’s 2018 consumer awareness survey (TNS) revealed that 55% of people in the UK recognise the FSC logo, the mark of responsible forestry. 69% would prefer to buy a product bearing the FSC logo, compared to one without, a figure that rises to 75% when it is stipulated that there are no other visible differences between the products (e.g. size, cost etc.).
So, finally, how would one go about becoming certified?
FSC-certification is carried out by third-party, FSC-accredited certification bodies. The first step is to contact certification bodies (and/or small business group schemes if appropriate) to request quotes. Prices can vary so we suggest getting quotes from a selection. Once you have selected a certification body, you need to ensure that an appropriate CoC Management System is in place, in line with the requirements of the FSC standards. Once your company has undergone a successful audit, it will be listed on the FSC certificate database (info.fsc.org) and you can begin using the FSC trademarks to promote your FSC-certified products on-pack, in brochures, websites etc. and in outgoing invoices.