FSC is an independent, member-led group organized into social, environmental, and economic chambers that have equal authority. Members elect the board of directors and vote on major decisions. Anyone committed to responsible forest management can become a member of FSC. This open and balanced approach is unique to FSC and ensures a diversity of perspectives are represented in decision making.
Environmentally appropriate forest management ensures that the harvest of timber and non-timber products maintains the forest's biodiversity, productivity, and ecological processes.
Socially beneficial forest management helps both local people and society at large to enjoy long term benefits and also provides strong incentives to local people to sustain the forest resources and adhere to long-term management plans.
Economically viable forest management means that forest operations are structured and managed so as to be sufficiently profitable, without generating financial profit at the expense of the forest resource, the ecosystem, or affected communities. The tension between the need to generate adequate financial returns and the principles of responsible forest operations can be reduced through efforts to market the full range of forest products and services for their best value.
Over the past 20 years, FSC has earned a reputation as the most rigorous, credible forest certification system. As a result, there are significant advantages to choosing FSC-certified products:
FSC's forest management standards expand protection of water quality, prohibit harvest of rare old-growth forest, prevent loss of natural forest cover and prohibit highly hazardous chemicals, which are all unique aspects of the system. For example, FSC prohibits the use of atrazine, which is otherwise legal in the US but banned in Europe because it has been shown to cause water pollution and birth defects. Other certifications allow atrazine use, including aerial spraying of the chemical.
FSC requires forest managers - on both public and private lands - to engage local community members and to protect customary rights of indigenous people, ensuring their voices are part of the certification process and impacts of forest operations are addressed. In addition, FSC requires the results of certification audits to be released to the public, even on private lands, which makes FSC unique among forest certifications.
Many major companies have policies that state a preference for FSC-certified products. Green building standards, including the US Green Building Council's LEED program, provide incentives for using FSC-certified materials. Increasingly, consumers are requesting FSC-certified products in retail stores across the country. Many governments require the use of FSC-certified products. Companies that produce FSC-certified products gain access to these markets, and many others.
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