Examining FSC Certification

For my final research paper I have decided to take a closer look at Forest Stewardship Council certification and analyzing the actual benefits of the certification system. The initial question that I proposed in my prospectus was whether or not FSC certified products were truly sustainable or merely an attempt at green-washing wood products. I was drawn to this subject due to the prevalence of wood products in our every-day lives from the homes we live in to the notebooks that we write in. I hoped to look into the requirements of certification and better understand how ecologically sustainable FSC products are.

Through additional research I realized that there was more to FSC certification than just the end product. There is more to measuring sustainability than from an ecological standpoint and it is necessary to examine it economically and socially as well. Due to this, I have expanded my originally question to address all three of these issues and have found a fair amount of information regarding them. From an ecological view it appears that certification is effective due to the encouragement of newer technologies and preserving biodiversity. It is also notable for its positive social effects which include improved worker safety and conditions. Worker provisions include implementation of changes such as improved working conditions, safety training, as well as safety equipment; all of which are important because of the inherent dangers of the industry. However, there is a problem with the economic accessibility behind FSC certification.

As of right now, FSC certification is more prominent among large industrial loggers in North America and Europe. These more-developed areas are more likely to become FSC certified than lesser-developed regions such as South America due to the differences in logging infrastructure. The logging industry in South America consists of smaller companies owned by families rather than large corporations and due to this it is a harder feat to achieve FSC certification than their northern counter-parts. This is especially troubling due to the fact that that the issues that certification can alleviate, such as preservation and worker safety, are not helping the regions that truly need it. This line of thinking ultimately led me to my proposed thesis of arguing that FSC certification provides positive economic and social benefits, but remains inaccessible to lesser-developed regions that are at economically disadvantaged.

Global map of FSC certification

Global map of FSC certification

Map Source: http://ic.fsc.org/download.facts-and-figures-december-2012.693.pdf

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One comment

  1. Adding to the problems with FSC is the fact that it’s essentially pointless for North American produced lumber, and adds a great deal to cost. According to your graph 40% of USA and Canadian forests are FSC certified, yet the others, according to research I’ve done by talking to people in the lumber industry, are managed in very much the same fashion, they just don’t bother to pay for certification since there’s no where near the market for it. The problem is that FSC certified lumber is still much more expensive because of how it’s regulated. Every person who handles FSC lumber has to keep it entirely separate from non-certified lumber. That means that lumber mills have to run separate lines for each, with shut downs between if they need to switch. Lumberyards have to have separate space set aside for the lumber, space which is wasted if there isn’t any inventory. Same is true of transportation, and any other use. All these costs add up, and so does each separate company having to pay for certification. The practices are the same, for North American lumber at least, but the prices are much higher, yet for South American and Central American lumber, where FSC regulations would actually have an impact, the bureaucracy is prohibitively difficult, meaning that people don’t bother to get registered, and thus don’t get the added benefit.

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