What is FSC®-Certified Packaging and Why Should I Care?

For environmental sustainability, an eco-conscious attitude shift is essential.

With an ever-increasing global need for environmental sustainability, an eco-conscious attitude shift is essential. With environmental phenomena like floods and wildfires, climate change, and deforestation growing at an alarming rate, the time to act is truly now.  

Thankfully, many organizations are taking action. One of the most long-standing among them is the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®). For decades, they have battled deforestation, providing a model for healthier forestry alternatives. Anyone committed to sustainable, eco-conscious packaging should become acquainted with the FSC® and what their certification process entails.

What is the Forest Stewardship Council®?

This non-profit organization’s seeds were sowed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where a proposal for halting deforestation was broached. No agreement was reached, which left a glaring void in environmental awareness worldwide. And so, born of necessity, the Forest Stewardship Council® was founded the following year by a group of environmental activists in conjunction with eco-conscious businesses focused on sustainable resource planning. Since then, their mission has evolved into the creation of “a revolutionary market-based approach to improve forestry practices worldwide.”

FSC® focuses specifically on ethical preservation of forests across the globe. Today they boast access to more than 200 million hectares of forest managed according to their standards.

The Forest Stewardship Council®’s sustainability standards remain high as they continually address arising issues and cultivate new solutions to meet changing environmental needs. The FSC® acknowledges the continuous and ever-growing need for paper and associated materials, which makes a more sustainable means of harvesting these resources increasingly necessary. Why can’t we create paper with carbon-neutral emissions? Or with no emissions at all? The FSC® sees this as a realistic goal in the years to come.

The FSC®’s standards extend to protecting conservation values, upholding the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and more. For a far more detailed overview of the FSC®’s complete forestry standards, click here.

What is FSC® Certification and How Does One Get It?

FSC® Certification “ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.” There are two types of FSC® Certification. The first is Forest Management Certification, which applies to forests and forest managers.

The second is Chain-of-Custody Certification, which is most applicable to the Printing and Packaging industries. In this instance, FSC® specifies the following:

“Any company that is taking ownership of a product, all the way up to the end user, will need to be FSC® certified to be able to pass along the FSC® claim to the next company”

So, any company sourcing a certain amount of wood products (ahem, paper) should seek out FSC® Certification, and request the same from suppliers. This simple measure ensures your company is contributing to the goal of restoring balance to our planet.

FSC® Certification and Packaging

The packaging industry contributes greatly to the harvesting of wood products for cardboard, paper bags, tissue paper, and wrapping paper, to name just a few. As such, we have a great responsibility to facilitate the sustainability of materials—but that is not always as simple as it sounds.

And that’s where the Forest Stewardship Council® comes in. Their efforts make it easier for businesses to operate according to these principles.  All FSC® products originate from responsibly managed forests, and the council has created a variety of labels for the industry’s various designations:

  1. The FSC® 100% Label: This designation represents virgin materials in their primary life cycle. It’s the most pristine product prior to any type of processing.
  2. The FSC® Recycled Label: This label indicates the product is made from 100% recycled materials. This is ideal for reducing the harvesting of trees.
  3. The FSC® Mix Label: This label is for materials that contain a combination of recycled and virgin materials. While materials potentially come from various forests, they are all produced according to the FSC®’s standards of sustainability.

How to Check if Your Packaging or Materials Are FSC®-Certified

Most of the time, you need look no further than the bag or box itself. Eco-conscious companies will often display the icon proudly in plain sight. But in some instances, it may be omitted for design reasons or because the merchant is not even aware they are using FSC® materials.  Ultimately, it is always best to specifically request it in advance. And you can always reach out to your supplier for more specific information.

A Few More Things to Know

  • The FSC®’s top priority is maintaining a forest that is CO2-neutral, which means being able to reproduce at a rate equal or greater to their being cut down.
  • All employees of FSC® forests are highly trained, paid fairly, provided with appropriate safety equipment, and adhere to the highest measures of hazard prevention.
  • As we mentioned earlier, the Forest Stewardship Council® places high priority on preservation of Indigenous land. The FSC® is in constant communication with Indigenous populations throughout the world, with a focus on respecting and maintaining all sacred land.
  • All wood and paper in an FSC®-certified system must be traceable. This guarantees that products come from eco-sustainable sources.
  • The FSC® also works to develop local infrastructures in poorer socioeconomic countries. When gathering materials from these countries, they work toward improving local schools, health care systems, and more.
  • Dozens of countries and regions worldwide participate with the Forest Stewardship Council®. Many of these regions even have specific national standards in place to ensure more eco-conscious practices. This includes countries like Peru, Cameroon, Honduras, and Vietnam, and regions like the Canadian Boreal Forests and Brazilian Amazon.

Why Does Forest Stewardship Council® Certification Matter to You?

As we mentioned, the FSC® prioritizes environmental sustainability, maintaining ethical forestry, and reducing the planet’s carbon emissions so that we may continue to thrive for centuries to come. This requires accountability on all fronts. So, whether you’re a consumer, packaging manufacturer, or distributor that outsources packaging, we must all do our part, and seeking out FSC®-certified materials is a good place to start.

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