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FSC Clarifies Its Labels

May 23, 2011

You see the FSC logo on websites and etched into many of our awards. Recently, the Forest Stewardship Council© released its new trademark standard FSC-STD-50-001, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to remind you what it means to be “certified” as a “Chain of Custody” supplier and what the FSC logo communicates about our products, especially now that the FSC labelling requirements are changing.

What is FSC?

The Forest Stewardship Council is just one of a number of forest certification programs across the globe, but is arguably the most well-known; you’ve probably seen the logo on your cereal box.

We choose to be certified by FSC because we strongly support their principles. FSC requires forest managers “to meet the social, economic, ecological, cultural and spiritual needs of present and future generations.”  Operational in over 100 countries, FSC is the leading supplier of forestry chain-of-custody certifications. (See our Responsible Forestry page for more details.)

What is Chain of Custody?

We don’t (yet) keep a forest in our back garden from which to source our own wood, so we are not primary sources of the responsibly harvested wood we use. We are one or more steps removed from the harvest, but no less important players in the lifecycle of the wood.

As long as we use FSC-certified wood and related products, we will remain custodians of those products at this particular step along their lifecycle. As official custodians, our processes and business principles are highly scrutinized by one of FSC’s 12 independent, accredited certifying institutions across the globe.  Our certifier is Scientific Certification Systems, Inc. (SCS) of Emeryville, California.

Every year, an auditor from SCS visits our facility, reviews our written procedures, and inspects our accounting, shipping, receiving, manufacturing, and product labelling processes to ensure that we fully comply with each element of the FSC standard for which we seek certification. The current Chain-of-Custody certification standard is FSC-STD-40-004 v2-0 and our license number is FSC-C019049.

The auditor’s report is thorough. This year’s report ran to 32 pages.In order to achieve and maintain FSC Chain of Custody certification, we must resolve any non-compliances by their stated deadlines. Historically, we have had very few non-compliances, and those few we have had have all been resolved well before deadline. Additionally, before we introduce new products or promotional materials, we must seek and receive prior approval from our auditor to ensure that we meet the applicable standard.

What the Label Says

As FSC has grown, so have the scope and variety of products it certifies.  Since “on product” labelling is a crucial component in differentiating wood products, FSC recently revised its “on product” look to provide consumers with more precise information upon which to make responsible purchasing decisions.

The new FSC “label” – because it’s more than just a logo – informs you that your product is certified by one of the leading authorities in forest management in the world.  It also provides information about the specific certified materials used and the percentage of the product that is certified.

What’s Changed

The “checkmark and tree” symbol hasn’t changed but the wording around it has. The most important aspects to take account of, as a consumer, are the “PURE,” “MIX,” and “RECYCLED” elements.

The PURE label indicates that the product you take home is made entirely of wood from an FSC-certified forest, and the label will probably also contain the wording “From well-managed forests” just to be clear.

The MIX label indicates the product could be made up from a variety of sources; the label may contain a Mobius loop to indicate what percentage is recycled, while the remainder is from virgin wood of well-managed origins. This label will likely also include the words, “From responsible sources.”

The RECYCLED label indicates that the product includes either post-industrial or post-consumer recycled materials. This may also contain a Mobius loop to show how much of the product is FSC-certified as recycled and will probably contain the wording “Made from recycled material” underneath.

What Rivanna Uses

For wood products, our policy is to use FSC PURE wood whenever possible.  Sometimes we use wood from mixed sources (MIX) when PURE is not available, such as for maple and cherry, as these hardwoods are in high demand for green building projects. The only imported wood species we routinely use is Honduran Mahogany and, for the past decade, we have always been able to source FSC PURE mahogany from a local certified supplier.

For certified recycled products, we use FSC RECYCLED or FSC MIX substrates, such as Richlite™ or PaperStone™. Our policy is always to use the material with the highest possible post-consumer recycled content (preferably 100%).

At every step of the process, from ordering the wood to receiving, sorting, machining, finishing, packaging, and labelling, you can rest assured that we, and our FSC auditor, make every effort to meet or exceed the requirements of our Chain-of-Custody standard.  Our FSC certification and, ultimately, our integrity as a business, demand nothing less.

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