FSC International – Forests for All Forever

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199,966,517 ha certified
38,542 CoC certificates
1,638 FM/CoC certificates

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The Role of FSC in Sustainable Public Procurement
How public money can be used to promote sustainable forest management

The world relies on forests in many ways. While providing a livelihood for millions of people, and a source for raw materials for all of us, they also play an important role in helping us to control and adapt to climate change; protecting and enhancing biodiversity, soil fertility, and clean, fresh water. In particular, deforestation and forest degradation together form one of the main contributors to global warming. Stopping this trend is essential for all these reasons, which is why ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option.

In recent years, global agreements like the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (2015) have promised to act on issues that include halting deforestation and forest degradation. Public authorities can act in different ways to help achieve this, including through their purchasing policies, and that is where FSC is able to help.

By making FSC certification part of their purchasing policy and practice, public authorities can require that suppliers of forest products meet the most comprehensive social and environmental requirements in the world. This presents an immediate opportunity to make a difference.

The power of public procurement

Public spending represents between 15 and 30 per cent of GDP in many countries, and is a powerful force for taking action against deforestation, forest degradation, and climate change. We have seen many public procurement policies and practices emerge in recent years. Often starting at the local level, these approaches have become embedded in the national policies of a growing number of countries.

But increasingly, governments are embracing the holistic concept of sustainable public procurement – one that is embodied by FSC certification.

By buying FSC-certified products – which range from paper or furniture for their offices to timber for construction projects – public procurers support the move towards sustainable public production and consumption patterns, giving the right example to consumers.

Contributing to UN Sustainable Development Goals

This type of procurement will only grow in importance. “Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns” is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the United Nations to direct the activities of governments, businesses, and civil society organizations over the next 15 years. Sustainable public procurement is listed as a specific target of this goal, and supporting forest certification can directly contribute to this.

In accordance with the UN’s goals, FSC subscribes to the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns. This global framework aims to enhance international cooperation in order to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production in both developed and developing countries.

The following documents explain in further detail how FSC certification can be used to pursue sustainable procurement practices.

How FSC certification can prove compliance with public procurement requirements

In the European Union, new public procurement directives apply from 18 April 2016. These allow for the inclusion of environmental – and to some extent social – requirements in public procurement. The directives, about which FSC has produced an introduction, also allow for the use of specific labels as evidence of compliance with sustainable procurement policies.
Read more.


Setting your own specific requirements for sustainable forest management can be problematic. Procurers are not allowed to specify in which countries the timber has to be harvested, so their technical specifications have to encompass all relevant forest types and social situations.
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How to address the limitations of life cycle assessment with FSC certification

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a widely used tool for understanding the environmental impacts of production, use, and discharge of goods, but it has limitations when forestry, fishing, mining, or agriculture are at the start of the supply chain. It also does not address social issues.
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Three steps to verify claims on FSC products

Companies must be able to verify the claims on the products they are purchasing. That is why FSC has set up a system of certificates for forest managers and for companies processing and trading material from certified forests. All FSC certificate holders are controlled on an annual basis by independent certification bodies, who are accredited by a specialized international organization, Accreditation Services International.
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How to build green with FSC-certified wood

Wood is an important component in many public projects, such as buildings, houses, harbours, waterworks, and railways. Sourcing the massive amounts of wood needed for public projects from sustainably managed forests can make a considerable environmental and social difference. Construction firms have to be FSC-certified in order to be able to claim the use of FSC certified materials.
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FSC provides added value, not added cost

FSC products are not necessarily more expensive. When there is a price difference it is often marginal. And FSC certification brings many benefits to our certificate holders, such as a reduction in costs and increased profits, while also allowing greater efficiencies in work processes by choosing a lesser known timber species.

Higher prices for FSC timber typically happen due to direct competition with forest operations that are undertaking illegal activities. Before making a purchase, procurers should ensure that the forest operation did not remove more trees than permitted or ecologically acceptable; did not evade taxes; did not ignore Indigenous Peoples’ rights; and ensured workers were paid a fair wage in safe conditions.

Buying FSC-certified products

Buying FSC-certified products can be done in several ways.

Contact one of our national offices to find out if it is possible to purchase FSC-certified materials in your part of the world.

Where can I find sustainable public procurement?

There are FSC-certified forests in 81 countries worldwide. In 2014, this meant that 16.6 per cent of all industrial wood harvested globally came from FSC-certified forests.

This timber goes to companies in more than 115 countries for processing and trade, so purchasing FSC-certified products is possible on all continents.

Several national offices have published information to assist public procurers in different languages, often also with specific national elements. Select a country from the list on the right to view more information.