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What Does FSC-Certified Mean?

Read on to understand the meaning behind the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) product certification.

Written by
Rachel Liu

Sometimes it’s hard to be a green shopper. This is especially true when it comes to the alphabet soup of environmental certifications that you see on products, from food at your local supermarket to planks of wood down at the Home Depot. Some of these labels are Non-GMO, EMAS, ECOLOGO, and now FSC. So let’s break down what it really means for your new bedside drawer to be FSC-certified. 

What Does the FSC Certification Mean?

According to the official Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) website, an FSC certification “ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.” The FSC, founded in 1993, is an independent nonprofit dedicated to protecting forests. It operates domestically from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and internationally from Bonn, Germany. The nonprofit is member-led, with the General Assembly as its highest decision-making body. Its General Assembly holds a meeting every three years

The General Assembly is also split into three chambers with northern and southern sub-chambers — environmental, social, and economic. This ensures that the General Assembly can equally weigh the interests of all represented members amongst any economic, geographic, or cultural differences. 

Currently, the FSC US National Standard (version 1.0) sets the standard for a product to be FSC certified. In order to be audited by FSC’s Forest Management Standards, forest owners must contact an FSC-accredited Certification Body or join a Forest Management Group.

Why Does It Matter?

In a 2018 Green Home Furnishings Consumer study, 92% of the respondents (from a total of 500), expressed an interest in buying wood furniture certified as legal and coming from responsibly managed forests. And why wouldn’t they? The first step to becoming an environmental advocate is to know what exactly to advocate for. After all, we engage with a diverse cast of forest-produced products every day, from furniture to tissue to the paper we write on. 

But as we all know, trees also take in carbon dioxide and convert it into the oxygen we breathe, with mature trees absorbing roughly 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Trees also reduce urban water runoff by sequestering rainfall and reduce noise pollution by absorbing sound by approximately 50%. New studies suggest that trees may even reduce crime, often making places feel safer.

Nonetheless, according to National Geographic, deforestation runs rampant across the world. Ever since we have started using trees as a resource, 46% of all trees have been felled (or cut down), according to a 2015 study by Nature. Practices such as clear-cutting, which is the uniform felling of all trees in a certain area, disturb biomes and their biodiversity.

Moreover, species that rely on forests face extinction as habitat loss continues. Furthermore, less wealthy and developed nations and marginalized people of color disproportionately bear the brunt of these catastrophic effects. 

It’s easy enough to feel minuscule and insignificant in the big scheme of things, especially with punishing forces like global warming to fight against. But in this case, there is something we can do about it. 

So, What Can You Do?

Did you know that on average, every person in the United States emits 19 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year? Collectively, Americans use 85,000,000 tons of paper per year, which pans out to around 680 pounds per person. These metrics indicate that as an individual, you are capable of reducing some of your resource use and managing your personal carbon footprint

Additionally, humans are highly sociable creatures. This is in accordance with Jim Rohn’s infamous quote: "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Those five people are influenced by you as well! Studies that investigate information and social conformity have shown that what you do matters to others. With that in mind:

Those five people are influenced by you as well! Studies that investigate information and social conformity have shown that what you do matters to others. With that in mind, do your homework—educate yourself on different environmental certifications (including the FSC, the Rainforest Alliance, Energy Star, Cradle to Cradle, and Safer Choice) and why they matter.  Also, follow-through: Buy products that are certified by legitimate organizations as environmentally conscious, or give new life to something you already own!