FSC Paper: What Is It & How Can It Benefit My Business?

You may have seen the abbreviation FSC® or the term “FSC certified” attached to products or parts of products, especially paper. The term FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council®, and if you suspect that FSC paper and other FSC certified products have a planet-positive component, you’re right. With respect to paper in particular, symbols for FSC paper or FSC certified paper on a product signal that the paper used in it has been responsibly sourced and supports sustainable forests. But what does that mean, exactly? 

Below we unpack answers to questions like what the Forest Stewardship Council is all about, what FSC certified paper is, and why FSC certification is so important to companies and consumers who care about our global environment, global economy, and local communities. 

What Is FSC?

The Forest Stewardship Council® is a non-profit leader in sustainable forestry. Partnering with other non-profits, businesses, and consumers worldwide, FSC protects and promotes healthy, resilient forests for all. As both a visionary and change-agent in sustainable forest management, FSC operates the world’s most rigorous and trusted forest certification system. Their mission benefits people, nature, and the climate globally (currently, they are involved in over 100 countries). The purpose of the FSC is one we can all get behind: Nurturing responsible forestry so forests and people can thrive. 

FSC Supports:

  • Responsible Sourcing: They help businesses work with forests responsibly.
  • Conservation: They help maintain and enhance forest value.
  • Restoration: They help accelerate forest recovery. This encourages biodiversity (which maintains balance and supports life) and helps reverse the current climate crisis.

FSC Works to Prevent:

  • Illegal Logging: This is a global problem with significant and negative economic, environmental, and social/violent impact.
  • Exploitation of Workers and Communities: Human life depends on the health of forests. Responsible forestry does more than protect the health and resilience of forests—it also protects the well-being of the people who live and work in them. These people include community and family forest managers, Indigenous Peoples living on their ancestral lands, and workers whose livelihoods depend on forest products.

What Does the FSC Certified Label Mean?

The label is considered the most trusted mark for responsible forestry. It shows that a product is FSC certified. When you see the FSC mark you know the product, packaging, or material has been sustainably sourced throughout the supply chain—that is, from forest to consumer. The FSC label indicates: 

  • Protected Forest: Cutting is based on the size of the forest area, the local legislations, and the local FSC forest management standard. Clear cut areas are replanted with native species to achieve zero deforestation.
  • Fair Wages: Fair wage and work environment.
  • Biodiversity Preservation: Plant and animal species are protected.
  • Community Rights: Local communities living in and around forest areas are consulted, and their legal and cultural rights to land and forest resources are respected. In North America, this includes Indigenous American or Native people.

What Is FSC Certified Paper?

Paper that is FSC certified contains one of the three FSC labels described above. This label is found on millions of products worldwide. It verifies sustainable sourcing from the forest to store shelves or another channel, like an online store, that gets the product into the hands of the end-user. 

Why Is FSC Certified Paper a Good Choice?

You know how every time you toss away a coffee cup or a paper plate, you just feel a little yucky, a little guilty, a little helpless? One step in the right direction is FSC paper, which is produced in a responsible, sustainable way that protects forests, animals, the environment, and surrounding communities. Tree by tree, we change the world. When you see the FSC certified label on a product you buy for yourself or customize for customers and employees, you can give it with confidence and use it with peace of mind. 

Do My Customers Care About FSC Certified Paper?

Yes, they do! Your customers care about forests, fair trade, and fair labor practices as much as you do. Here are highlights from some recent research1 that underscores the point: Consumers put forests first! 

  • According to a global survey of consumers, sustainability is a key consideration while shopping.
  • 86% of global consumers prefer to choose products that do not harm plants and animals.
  • 76% say products’ sustainability credentials should be independently certified.
  • 77% of those consumers who recognize the FSC label prefer to choose an FSC-certified product instead of an equivalent non-certified product.
  • 59% of consumers surveyed in the US and UK are willing to pay more for eco-friendly packaging.

Is FSC Paper Recyclable?

Yes! Not only is FSC certified paper recyclable, but some FSC paper is made from recycled sources as well. You can tell if your FSC paper is made from recycled paper if the FSC label includes the words “FSC Recycled”.  

Side Note: The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that an ordinary sheet of paper made from cellulose fibers derived from wood can survive only five to seven trips through the recycling process. After that, the fibers become too short for recycling. At that point, recycled fiber is mixed with virgin fiber to produce paper.2  

Is FSC Certification Just for Paper?

No, it’s not. Of course, paper is the primary product that comes out of forests, but it’s by far not the only one. Other materials and products that pursue FSC certification include wood, pulp and paper, textiles, rubber, bamboo, non-timber forest products like maple syrup and medicinal ingredients, and even buildings. 

Are all FSC Labels the Same?

There are three types of FSC certified labels. Each has the same image and the supporting text tells us in what way the product is advancing the FSC mission. They are all awesome and all deserve our support! 

  • Label with “FSC 100%”: All materials used come from responsibly managed, FSC-certified forests. Products with the “FSC 100%” label contribute most directly to our mission to ensure thriving forests for all, forever.
  • Label with “FSC Recycled”: The product is made from 100 percent recycled materials. Using recycled material makes the most of precious forest resources and reduces the pressure to harvest more trees.
  • Label with “FSC Mix”: The product is made with a mixture of materials from FSC certified forests, recycled materials, or FSC controlled wood with the controlled wood content not exceeding 30%. While controlled wood doesn’t come from FSC certified forests, it does not originate from illegally harvested forests or other unacceptable sources.3

Why Do Forests Matter So Much?

You might wonder why sustainable forestry is so important. How does choosing sustainably-sourced products today—like FSC certified paper—help forests in the future? Did you know:  

  • Planet: Over half the world’s species call forests their home, making them one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on our planet. Forests clean the air we breathe and filter the water we drink. They help regulate our climate by absorbing and retaining carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • Employment: Globally, 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods.4
  • Paper and More: Forests give us the resources to build homes and stores and provide products like paper, boxes, and packaging of all kinds.

How Does Illegal Logging Damage Forests and Communities?

Illegal logging is harvesting timber in violation of the laws and regulations of the country of harvest. It’s a global problem with significant negative economic, environmental, and social impact. It contributes to deforestation worldwide, which accounts for roughly 17% of global carbon pollution, harms indigenous communities, and funds underground crime.  

We asked Pedro Moniz, National Pen’s Global Sustainability Manager and resident expert on planet-friendly business practices, for his perspective on illegal logging. “Deforestation and illegal logging are a big concern for National Pen, so ensuring our entire supply chain is free from illegal logging is a must,” said Moniz. “FSC certification helps to ensure exporters of wood-based materials throughout the supply chain are maintaining good practices.” 

How Do Companies with FSC Certification Benefit?

Getting FSC certification is a big step forward in a company’s visible, actionable, flow-through commitment to good business practices with the whole world in mind. Here are a few ways companies benefit: 

Environmental Benefits:

  • Contribute to conservation of biodiversity.
  • Help protect threatened species and habitats.
  • Contribute to maintenance of the ecological functionality of the forest.
  • Help safeguard against deforestation to ensure continued carbon sequestration (the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide—forest regrowth is an example of carbon sequestration).

Social Benefits:

  • Promote the health and safety of forest workers.
  • Ensure indigenous people’s rights (FSC does this by upholding their rights of forest ownership, use, and management).
  • Promote local business development in forest communities.

Economic Benefits:

  • Enhance profitability through elimination of wasteful practices.
  • Potentially increase sales.
  • Enhance market access.

Globally, consumers give preference to FSC certified products (paper, wood, and other materials). It’s the highest certification standard for sustainable forestry—the most commercially viable and credible certification system. 

“We want forest-based businesses and economies to grow and thrive,” said Moniz. “When everyone works in concert, the green economy wins, and the FSC certification program paves the way for that to happen.” 

How Is National Pen Participating in the FSC Initiative?

As a global company, National Pen is committed to sustainability and using FSC certified paper in products is part of our plan. “We’re not certified yet,” said Moniz. “Our goal is to have 100% FSC paper in our products by FY [Fiscal Year] 2025.” A few highlights of our plan: 

Improving Production at National Pen:

  • 100% of wood fiber products (includes paper and other materials) produced in facilities owned by National Pen will come from FSC certified sources.
  • 95% of wood fiber products (includes paper and other materials) produced on our behalf (by third party fulfillers) come from FSC certified sources. For instance, today on our site you can buy products that include FSC certified paper, like this 5.5″ x 8.5″ Recycled Leather Bound JournalBook®. In the future you’ll see many more options in this area.

Improving Packaging at National Pen:

  • 95% of our packaging will come from FSC certified sources or meet minimum post-consumer waste (PCW) requirements.

Once National Pen gets certified, the certification is valid for five years. We’ll have annual audits by third parties to verify we fulfill all the necessary requirements to sell FSC certified products. Moniz added, “With FSC certification we can secure a long-term supply of forest products while ensuring sustainability, legality, and community.” 

How Does Choosing FSC Certified Paper and Products Help My Brand?

When you add your logo to a product like a journal or a notebook that includes the FSC mark, you’re attaching your brand values to healthy and sustainable forests, responsible land use, animal protection, fair hiring practices, and support for local communities. You’re also standing against deforestation and illegal logging. These are more than causes; they’re core values that position our planet for survival. Paper and other products that are FSC certified allow us all to hold our heads a little bit higher as we go about our business.  

How Else Can I Help?

Hug a tree. Really! Have your next team outing or client tour at a nature preserve or national forest. It’s hard to know what you’re trying to protect if you haven’t seen it for yourself. So, explore and appreciate the natural beauty of the world’s forests and everything they have to offer. 

Sources: 

  1. https://1ec4c04de36c11011b7b-b0e482557560956b9f71038ee7452dfa.ssl.cf3.rackcdn.com/Sustainable-Packaging-Unwrapped.pdf
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/21/science/21qna.html#:~:text=A.,at%20five%20to%20seven%20times
  3. https://us.fsc.org/en-us/certification/controlled-wood
  4. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/deforestation-biodiversity-protect-international-day/

Karleen Wise Andersen

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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