A Guide to FSC Certification

fsc certified lumber


What is FSC Certified?

Why You Should Buy FSC-Certified Patio Furniture

What does it mean when a product, like decking or outdoor patio furniture, is referred to or labelled as FSC Certified? The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), is a non-profit organization that sets certain high standards to make sure that forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible and socially beneficial manner. If a product, like a piece of tropical hardwood patio furniture, is labelled as “FSC Certified,” it means that the wood used in the product and the manufacturer that made it met the requirements of the Forest Stewardship Council.

The FSC certification is considered the “gold standard” designation for wood harvested from forests that are responsibly managed, socially beneficial, environmentally conscious, and economically viable.

The United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) reports that its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED program certifies 1.6 million square feet of building space every day. Currently, about 9 billion square feet of building space is participating in the LEED program.

Why You Should Consider FSC-Certified Furniture

Forests cover 30% of global land area, according to the FSC. Consumers who want to go green at home and in their landscaping should consider buying sustainable garden furniture and products. The United States is the world’s largest importer of tropical wooden furniture from timber-producing countries. Of those imports, garden furniture represents approximately one-fifth of the wooden furniture market. U.S. imports of all tropical wood products have increased over the past couple of decades. Formerly rich forests in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brazil, are being depleted at an unprecedented rate.

A major cause of deforestation is the legal and illegal logging of remaining primary forests to meet the growing need for tropical wood products. At current rates of deforestation, the remaining biodiversity-rich natural forests in South American, Asian, and African countries could disappear within a decade.

Experts recommend that consumers look for and request products with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo, which means the wood is traceable to a sustainably managed forest.

“You can find the FSC tree-and-checkmark logo on certain wood and paper products at major home improvement and office supply retailers,” says Jack Hurd, director of The Nature Conservancy‘s forest trade program. In addition, he suggests contacting your favorite stores to ask about stocking FSC-certified products and telling your friends and family to ask for FSC.

Know Where it Comes From

Something as seemingly benign as hardwood garden furniture might contribute to the destruction of the world’s most valuable rainforests, according to The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Prized for their beauty and durability, some rainforest species may be illegally harvested for outdoor furnishings. Buying FSC-certified outdoor furniture helps support sustainable forest management, which reduces the emission of greenhouse gases and protects wildlife habitat,” the WWF maintains.

fsc timber

FSC sustainable logging occurs in the natural forest around the Alpicam logging concession in the Kika region of Cameroon. Brent Stirton / Getty Images

Understanding FSC Labels

Look for products that carry the FSC certification, and ideally, are made from FSC woods—like eucalyptus—harvested in the local economy where the furniture was made.

While the FSC makes a somewhat complicated process and the chains of supply easier to understand for consumers, it helps to know just what the three labels on most products mean:

      • FSC 100%: Products come from FSC-certified forests.
      • FSC Recycled: The wood or paper in a product comes from reclaimed material.
      • FSC Mixed: A mix means at least 70 percent of the wood in a product comes from FSC-certified or recycled material; while 30 percent is made of controlled wood.

Searching for Products in the FSC Database

To more easily track down the right sustainable products, the Global FSC Certificate Database provides a Product Classification tool to research and identify companies and importers/exporters of certified materials and products. The tool helps you find certified companies using drop-down menus to let you select a product type, like “outdoor furniture and gardening” or “veneer”, along with certificate status, the name of an organization, country, etc. From there, it presents a list of companies, descriptions of products, country of origin, and other details to help you find a product that is FSC certified or to check discover when if the certification has lapsed.

Second- and third-level searches will help you to refine a search for a product that is FSC certified. A Product Data tab provides more details about the types of materials included in the certificate or certified products.

By Lisa Hallett Taylor