November/December  2003


More Questions Are Asked About FSC

Editor’s Note: The following letter was written to SHELTER in response to the “Forest Friendliness” article, published in the September 2003 issue on page 32. 

Glad to see the continuing report on forest certification. The more written the more the process will be accepted. 

We have a way to go yet! As you look to future articles please investigate the origin of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Your reference to it as having German origin was new news. I thought they originally developed the program for bringing awareness to the abuse of tropical forests in those regions. I am also assuming (and would like to confirm) that the principal funding for FSC comes from foundations but am puzzled why they do not want to promote mutual recognition. 

More reporting or discovery of this information might help explain why they are so convinced there only should be one certifying agency and that should be FSC. It is my understanding many of the more radical groups support them but not sure of the connections. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Canadian Standards Association’s programs are totally transparent but little is known of the FSC group. 

What can you do to promote more openness? I know they meet and have an office in Mexico, and they hire out services such as Smartwood for doing inspections, but I wonder if they have mutual financial support. 

Why does Forest Ethics and Rain Forest Action Network promote FSC so staunchly? Why not support all agencies that support forest management for sustainability? I don’t think they are “for profit” organizations but for betterment of the world forests.

Bob Owens, President
Owens Forest Products
Duluth, Minn.

FSC Responds

I am writing in response to a letter from one of your readers. FSC is pleased that you are offering such consistent coverage of our program. Like your reader, we hope that forest management that meets Forest Stewardship Council standards becomes the norm. There are still places in the world where logging contributes to loss of habitat, displacement of indigenous peoples and violence against people and wildlife. 

The more consumers prefer FSC-certified wood and paper, the harder it will be for companies to sell materials that come from unverified, unsustainable and violent sources. FSC believes forests can be managed for a variety of values, including production of wood and paper fiber for profit, without compromising their ecological integrity. 

There are a few points I would like to clarify regarding the note from your reader. First, FSC was created in 1993 by a diverse group of loggers, foresters, environmentalists and sociologists from around the world. While we were originally headquartered in Oaxaca, Mexico, FSC now has its international center in Bonn, Germany. FSC-US is one of 30 national initiatives around the world. 

FSC does receive a majority of its funding from private foundations. There are a dozen organizations we accredit around the world that carry out certification assessments in the field. These groups determine if companies meet the FSC standards. We believe keeping this function separated from the setting of standards strengthens our credibility and the overall integrity of our program. 

As to mutual recognition of other certification programs, there continues to be significant differences between how other certification programs are structured, and the rigor of their standards when compared to FSC. For example, FSC only labels products as certified when the full supply chain has been verified. Our chain-of-custody certification assures that labeled products come from certified sources. Other certification programs lack this component. Further, we continue to maintain higher standards on issues of chemical use and clearcutting, and we prohibit the use of genetically modified organisms. 

FSC also seeks to promote the conservation and management of natural forests. Other programs allow certification for forests that have recently been converted from natural forest to plantations.

To suggest that little is known of the FSC group is simply inaccurate. FSC is the most transparent of any certification program. Individuals and groups can be involved in the setting of standards, can join the organization and every FSC certification assessment is open for public review before it is finalized. If your readers are interested, they can go to to learn about FSC internationally, and in the United States, see There are more than 450 companies offering FSC-certified products in the United States alone.

With respect to Forest Ethics and the Rainforest Action Network, these are separate organizations with a much broader mission than FSC. FSC sets the highest standards for forest management. Many organizations support the FSC including Greenpeace, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, Wilderness Society and World Wildlife Fund. 

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond to this letter. FSC-US is committed to ensuring that factual dialogue occurs so that we can better fulfill our mission of improving forest management worldwide.

Michael P. Washburn, Ph.D.
Vice President of Forestry and Marketing, FSC-USy


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