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Research review: The impact of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification

Posted on 20 October 2014

A literature review of studies examining the environmental, social and governance impact of FSC certification.

Established in 1994, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was the first forest certification scheme, setting the standard for a new model of market-based conservation tool to promote responsible forest management and trade. Now in its 20th year, FSC has inspired a number of other certification schemes, and remains the sole one with broad support from environmental and social NGOs.
FSC’s aim is to improve forest management globally and, through certification, create an incentive for forest owners, managers, and buyers of wood products, follow best social and environmental practices. Today, over 180 million hectares of forests worldwide are managed according to FSC standards. These include boreal, temperate and tropical forests owned publicly, privately and by communities.
A handful of credible and scientific studies have been conducted to assess the impact of FSC certification. A meta-analysis of these studies reveals that there is limited but concrete evidence suggesting that FSC certification is likely to have a multitude of positive impacts on the environment, social development and governance. There are little or no credible and scientific studies assessing the impact of other forest certification schemes. 

FSC logo painted on sustainable harvested logs. Uzachi forest, Oaxaca, Mexico
© N.C. Turner / WWF