FSC Certification Delivers Environmental Credibility to Publishers

By: Tara Sawatsky and Nicole Rycroft | Canopy

FSC Certification Delivers Environmental Credibility to Publishers

These days it seems you can’t turn around without running into a certified product: your coffee, eggs, produce, cars, appliances, and, now, your newspaper. What all these certifications have in common is a producer response to consumer demand for a better way of doing things, be that better for our environment, our communities, or our wallets. Certifications are a valuable means of establishing trust and credibility between consumers and producers.  

As a disposable product with a significant impact on forests, newspapers stand to benefit from the consumer confidence that certification can lend. Just like organic certification at the grocery store, certified paper fiber from a certified forest can add credibility to the publications you produce.   

Certification is especially important when high-recycled-content papers are not available, and fiber from virgin forests is used instead. Intact and endangered forests provide essential eco-system services such as sequestering carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas responsible for climate change), providing habitat for animals and keeping our air and water clean. Forest Stewardship Council certification helps ensure responsible stewardship of these values — something that North American and European consumers are increasingly requiring.  

A Sea of Acronyms
There are several forest certification systems on the market; it’s a crowded landscape. You’re probably already familiar with at least some of them — FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative), PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), as well as CSA (Canadian Standards Association) and the ATFS (American Tree Farm System). Given the alphabet soup of acronyms and competing marketing claims, it can be challenging to discern what the various certifications represent, what they actually do on the forest floor, and which one is best. However, with a closer look, one certification scheme rises above the rest.  

FSC: Ahead of the Pack
FSC was the first forest certification system. It was founded in 1993 by environmental organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund to “promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.” In response, producers created their own certification schemes — predominantly SFI, CSA, and PEFC — developed in the initial stages by the U.S., Canadian, and European forest industries respectively.  

FSC is the only international certification scheme recognized by Canopy and many other environmental and social organizations as a true measure of ecologically sustainable logging. While at first the distinction between the schemes may be difficult to discern, upon closer scrutiny the differences are clear.  

In 2009, The Boxfish Group did a comparison of audits conducted by FSC and SFI for an area covering 118 million acres of Boreal forests — 59 million acres for each standard. The study found that an SFI audit lasted on average six days, whereas an FSC audit lasted on average 29 days — with an average number of auditor days in the field of 0.7 per 100,000 hectares for the former, versus 3.4 per 100,000 hectares for the latter.  

Comparatively, SFI audits were composed of only two foresters, whereas an FSC team included not only two foresters, but also a biologist and a community or “First Nations” specialist — important perspectives to have on the audit team to adequately assess those criteria of the standards. The metrics of the audit comparisons for the two schemes show FSC is significantly more rigorously assessed than its counterpart.  

Academic studies in both the U.S. and Canada have shown that FSC-certified forests are more likely to achieve real changes on the ground, given that FSC audits require more changes in environmental, social, and economic considerations, including requirements for a smaller annual allowable cut. FSC’s criteria contribute to better-managed forests with stricter provisions related to high-conservation-value forests, endangered species, genetically modified trees, the conversion of natural forest into plantations, and the impacts of forestry on aboriginal peoples. While Canopy clearly favors FSC, we encourage the improvement of all certification systems to advance forest practices worldwide.  

In Good Company 
A growing number of North American publishers are sourcing newsprint that contains FSC-certified fiber. International newspapers that have full FSC certification include the Metro daily publications in Brazil and the Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad. In Canada, The Globe and Mail has stated a preference for FSC, along with companies such as EarthColor, FedEx, Office Depot, Staples, Kimberly-Clark, and Victoria’s Secret. These companies’ environmental policies and mandates are propelling improved forest practices and increased supply and awareness of FSC products.

White Birch/SP Newsprint and Tembec are examples of growing numbers of North American suppliers providing FSC-certified newsprint to their customers. Other suppliers with noteworthy FSC commitments include Kruger and AbitibiBowater. With these players already trending toward FSC, the potential exists to quickly and significantly increase the amount of FSC-certified newsprint that is available for North American newspapers — all publishers need to do is ask for it and suppliers will respond.  

FSC certification delivers clear social and environmental benefits to the forest region as well as credible brand enhancement to the publisher. Coupled with an environmental paper policy, publishers can make real progress on improving their publications’ environmental impact while contributing to broader change in the way our forests are managed.  

By then all that’s left to do is sit back and relax with your certified coffee and FSC-certified newspaper — and the good news that you’re making a positive impact on the world’s forests.  

Tara Sawatsky, corporate campaigner, and Nicole Rycroft, executive director and founder, Canopy  

Canopy safeguards the world’s forests, species, and climate by harnessing the power of the marketplace and changing business practices. Specifically, we drive North American demand for green paper products by working with the newspaper, magazine, book, and print industries to phase out the use of endangered forests and make environmental solutions possible. Canopy works to improve the environmental performance of the U.S. newspaper industry in coordination with the Green Press Initiative.

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