Customers often come to us because they're shopping for eco-friendly, sustainable furniture. At Vermont Woods Studios, our mission is founded on environmental and social responsibility so we find ourselves discussing FSC certification and other aspects of sustainable furniture almost every day. Here are some of the basics on FSC:
What is FSC?
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent,
non-governmental, not-for-profit organization that promotes responsible
management of the world's forests. It is widely regarded as one of the
most important initiatives to promote responsible forest management
worldwide. It places a special emphasis on rainforest conservation.
L to R photo credits: Reststart Forestry, Allard Lumber, Wayne Fawbush, Ellen Kahler, Copeland Furniture, via the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.
by environmental groups in 1993 FSC manages an international standard
for well-managed forests and a process for tracking and certifying wood
furniture, flooring and other products derived from those forests. FSC
addresses numerous aspects of sustainable forestry, including ecological
issues, old-growth forests, plantations, restoration, biodiversity,
native habitat, indigenous people's rights, and sound management for
The FSC label provides certification of the
chain of links between the forest where a product originates and the
consumer. For example with wood furniture, each of the following
businesses involved in transforming a tree into a piece of furniture
would have to be FSC certified in order for that furniture piece to be
FSC certified. It's called the "chain of custody":
- Certified forest owner- Must employ a professional forester and
develop a forest management plan which meets stringent ecological and
- Certified logger and sawyer
- Certified lumber wholesaler
- Certified lumber retailer
- Certified furniture maker
- Certified furniture retailer
Benefits of FSC Certification
In my opinion, FSC provides the most rigorous certification process
available. It's widely considered the gold standard in sustainable
forestry and has moved the world forward in many areas of rainforest
Copeland's Harbor Island Furniture collection is handmade here in VT with FSC certified maple wood from local Vermont trees.
Challenges for FSC As you might expect FSC
certification involves extensive rule-making and auditing that can be
quite expensive (and controversial) to implement. It can add up to 50% to the price of the
end product although the hope is that this cost will decrease as FSC
certification becomes more mainstream. Still many small manufacturers
are unable to assume this cost and are thus not FSC certified.
challenge for FSC is the rampant counterfeiting of FSC documentation
accompanying raw lumber that is being illegally clear cut from the
Amazon and other endangered areas of rainforest. Also FSC has been
criticized for being too lenient,
particularly with their policy allowing limited old growth logging.
Should You Buy Only FSC Certified Furniture?
Authentic FSC certified furniture is a responsible choice for the
eco-conscious homeowner. However there are many genuinely responsible,
green, eco-friendly furniture makers who are not FSC certified due to
the red tape and expense involved. Conversely there is a large market of fake, FSC
labeled furniture that comes to us through layers of corruption
In Vermont, many of us who were certified by FSC for years have been moving away from it lately. Not because we don't support the ideal, but because we have so many other systems in place that effectively ensure our furniture is authentically green and sustainable. At Vermont Woods Studios not all of our furniture is FSC certified, but it is all made from sustainably harvested wood from local and regional forests.
If FSC certification is important to you, check out Copeland's Harbor Island Furniture collection. It's handmade here in VT with FSC certified maple from local Vermont trees. And let us know on our Facebook or in the comments section below how you feel about FSC certification.