FAQ: FSC Certification

“What is a ‘Chain of Custody’?”
The FSC® define this as ‘the path taken by raw materials, processed materials or finished products from the forest to the consumer including each stage of transformation, manufacturing, storage and transport where progress to the next stage involves a change of ownership of the materials or products’. So a chain of custody is essentially an audit trail, all the way from the forest to (in our case) the printed product. Each link in the chain needs to be certified so that it can be audited on behalf of the FSC.

“Are there any benefits to my business?”
FSC Certification can help your business to:
  • Win business
  • Retain existing customers
  • Comply with tender criteria and legislation for the environment
  • Take the first steps for an environmental certification
  • Discriminate your business from the competition
  • Establish credibility in an increasingly competitive and environmentally aware market

“How much does FSC certification cost?”
Printers with more than 15 employees will need individual certification. The cost of this will be from about £1,300 per year but will vary according to the size of the operation. If a print site has 15 employees or fewer, membership of an FSC group scheme can cost as little as £670.00 + VAT per year.

“What are the reasons for certification?”
I often ask my customers why they’ve gone in for FSC certification. The most common answers are:
“A large customer required it”
“It’s a less costly way to add some credibility to our letterhead/website/business than an ISO or more exacting standard”
“It may help us to win business with bigger clients”
“We work with a print manager that was putting FSC jobs elsewhere. Being certified has gained much more work from that customer - most of which is non-FSC”
I have yet to hear anyone say they did it for the environment.

“Which is better, FSC or recycled?”
FSC Mix or FSC 100% material categories are made from pulp from well managed forests. As more trees are planted more carbon dioxide is absorbed. This makes the use of paper environmentally friendly. Wood is a renewable resource; when forests are well managed, with consideration for the environment, the wildlife and the people who live and work in them, harvesting timber can actually be an effective way of safeguarding the forests for future generations. Choosing products sourced from these well-managed forests and from recycled post-consumer waste allows businesses and consumers to support the world‘s forests. Products carrying the FSC Recycled label have been made from at least 85% post consumer waste. Other recycling standards may not be as rigorous having as little as 25% recycled content.

“How difficult is it to manage chain of custody in my business?”
Not difficult at all. Any modern MIS can be configured to insert FSC claim information into job descriptions (on job sheets, delivery notes and invoices etc.), when claims are made, and produce the required annual reports. Once certified you can make claims on as many, or as few jobs as you like.

“If the paper is FSC Certified, why does the printer need to be as well?”
FSC has produced standards which
  • Make sure that FSC wood is accounted for as it passes along the supply chain
  • Make sure that when FSC wood is mixed with other wood, this does not come from undesirable sources (see FSC Con- trolled Wood)
  • Make sure that recycled/reclaimed material is acceptable (see Recycled Material)
  • Enables FSC certified products to be produced or stocked as well as uncertified products
  • Provide a range of labeling options
It is only by becoming part of a certified chain of custody that a printer can make FSC claims and apply FSC labels it’s products.

“If one member of The Group Scheme fails an audit, does it affect the rest of the group?”
The answer is… No.
The Group Scheme could only fail if the certification body identified several members failing (i.e. systematic rather than isolated issues). We manage the members to pre-empt that. If a member consistently failed to correct issues identified we would suspend their membership.

“Why would my customers want me to be FSC certified?”
It is a very cost-effective way for them to demonstrate their commitment to the environment. FSC have been very effective in communicating their message to government, big business, and the public, so businesses see a benefit to their brands in being able to say that their suppliers are FSC-certified, or to buy FSC certified products and have the FSC trademarks appear on them. 

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