Forest Certification Programs in Plain English
Certification programs aim to slow global damage to forests and promote environmental responsibility. Here's a guide to help you choose which program is right for your environmental goals.
Thirteen million hectares of forests are destroyed across the globe each year, the United Nations declared on Nov. 14, 2005. This number equates to well over 32 million acres—or an area roughly the size of Greece.
In an effort to protect forests from irresponsible management, various groups have established certifications for evaluating forest management practices. The idea is that the certifications would indicate to purchasers of forest products which products come from forests that are managed in environmentally and/or socially responsible ways.
The challenge for paper buyers, however, is that a number of certifications have emerged on the market, and it isn't always abundantly clear what each certification means and which ones indicate forest management practices that match a publisher's goals for environmental and social responsibility.
"[Forest] certification is a complex and tricky animal," says Frank Locantore, director of Co-op America's Magazine PAPER Project. "Complex in that there are many different considerations when creating a certification system, [such as] economic, environmental, social … Tricky in that there are [many] different certification systems …."
To help simplify the matter, the following guide identifies and explains some of the forest certification programs available for paper purchasers looking to operate more socially and environmentally responsible organizations.
Forest Stewardship Council
Among the most prevalent forest certification programs is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)—an international standards-establishing network aimed at promoting responsible forest management. FSC is an independent, not-for-profit organization comprised of environmental, social and business representatives, and establishes principles, guidelines, criteria and standards that address economic, social and environmental issues.
Paper companies are able to seek certification as a way to prove to consumers that they practice forestry consistent with FSC standards. FSC accredits independent certification organizations to audit these companies to ensure standards are met. The FSC label is further strengthened when the certification organizations verify that companies claiming to sell FSC-certified products have tracked their supply back to FSC-certified sources.