FSC International – Forests for All Forever

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198,705,517 ha certified
37,365 CoC certificates
1,620 FM/CoC certificates

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History of Controlled Wood

© FSC GD - Jean Baptiste Lopez

Controlled Wood (CW) has its origin in the FSC Policy on Percentage Based Claims that came into effect in October 1997. Prior to this, the Chain-of-Custody (CoC) standard was straightforward in requiring that FSC-labeled products be comprised of 100% pure FSC-certified material. This soon proved to be difficult to apply to most mainstream forest products sectors, particularly chip and fiber products such as paper. Companies were significantly challenged in securing enough FSC certified supply to meet their growing market demand. Moreover, the necessary segregation of FSC material from non-FSC material in many production streams, even when feasible, demanded an additional level of cost and/or investment that was perceived by many companies to outweigh the market benefits of FSC certification.Thus, only a few products were labeled or reached the final consumer ascertified.

The 1997 Policy on Percentage Based Claims aimed at overcoming these barriers by allowing uncertified virgin and recycled material to be used in an FSC certified product based on certain screening requirements and labeling thresholds. The actual uncertified content was required to be communicated through a percentage claim as part of the FSC product label. 

This new approach did serve to alleviate supply bottlenecks and to facilitate labeling, yet it also brought criticism with respect to the source of the non-certified material in an FSC-certified product. The 1997 policy did not provide a clear definition or mechanism for identifying and avoiding “Controversial Sources” but it used this term and included the following guiding statement: "That certification bodies are requested to determine the precise forest origin of non-certified material and avoid controversial sources of non certified virgin material (e.g. from old-growth forests or plantations established by converting natural forest)."

In 2000, a review of the policy led to a more sophisticated approach towards “Controversial Sources” and an entire section on this subject was added to the policy. The following categories of uncertified raw materials were considered to be unacceptable as part of an FSC certified product:

  • Wood that has been illegally harvested
  • Wood from genetically modified trees
  • Wood from areas where there is a clear demonstration of violation of traditional, customary or civil rights, or of serious extant disputes with Indigenous peoples or other social stakeholders, involving confrontation or violence
  • Wood from uncertified high conservation value forests (HCVFs)

The 2000 policy further required companies to have a public policy to avoid wood from these unacceptable sources as well as a monitoring and tracking system to identify the origin of the uncertified material.

Still, both users and stakeholders were not satisfied with the impacts and implementation of the 2000 policy, resulting in a systematic evaluation of the various policy elements, starting formally in June 2001. In September 2002 the FSC Board authorized a number of changes to the policy, to be implemented through the development and subsequent approval of formal FSC standards for chain of custody and labeling on the one hand and for the control of uncertified materialon the other. By September 2004 the following suite of new standards had been approved:       

  • FSC chain of custody standard for companies supplying and manufacturing FSC-certified products (FSC-STD-40-004)
  • FSC standard for non FSC-certified controlled word (FSC-STD-40-005)
  • FSC standard for forest management enterprises for non FSC-certified Controlled Wood (FSC-STD-30-010)
  • FSC on-product label requirements (FSC-STD-40-201).

The term “Controlled Wood” was introduced to describe the successful avoidance of sources previously termed “Controversial.” Essentially, FSC-STD-40-005 took on the role of former Section 3 of the Policy on Percentage Based Claims and included a fifth unacceptable source for material resulting from the conversion of natural forest. It further provided a new conceptual approach by allowing companies to identify the risk of sourcing unacceptable material on a defined geographical level instead of assessing their forest sources directly.

During 2005, FSC was mandated to monitor the uptake of, and review, the new FSC Controlled Wood standards taking into account experience with practical implementation and to resolve outstanding issues. This review led to a second version of the two standards  approved in 2006 (FSC-STD-40-005 and FSC-STD-30-010) that would become effective in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Since its release in 2004, the Controlled Wood standard has gone through one complete revision and a series of other modifications through Advice notes and guidance documents.

Currently Controlled Wood system is being comprehensively reviewed and revised. 

“Controlled Wood” was a new concept for the FSC. As such, mid-course adjustments to the Standard have needed to be made, and continue to be made, based on experiences in its application, to ensure compliance with its intent.

Source: FSC Evaluation of Controlled Wood (Discussion Draft), June 2011