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Top 10 myths about FSC certification

Posted by Paul Vanderford on December 6, 2013

Paul Vanderford drills down through outdated information to help companies make informed decisions

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Myth 1) FSC® Chain-of-custody (CoC) Certification is expensive:

The number of certification bodies has grown and FSC has innovated with changes in group certification programs which improve access and affordability. The big innovation was raising the annual revenue cap to $5 million dollars which allowed many more firms to qualify, improving accessibility of affordable FSC certification services together with FSC brand and network access for an increasing share of the woodworking industry. 

For example, Sustainable Northwest's FSC group program offers certification on a sliding scale between $500-2,500/year. Companies too large to qualify for group membership can expect to pay $3,200+ a year based on the complexity of their operation. (Click here for a group certification program list and certification body list.)

Myth 2) Putting an FSC system in place is time consuming and hard:

Group certification programs make getting certified much easier than going in alone. The manager of Sustainable Northwest's group helps new members create efficient FSC systems while on site as part of the 2-4 hour certification visit. Group members of the Sustainable Northwest program are finding this assistance invaluable. 

Myth 3) Certification requires significant lead time: 

Getting FSC certified requires very little lead-time. For example, joining Sustainable Northwest takes new members an average of two weeks. If a regional group or certification body is not available in your region of the country, getting certified may take longer. It is best to call around and ask.

Myth 4) Not all wood products are available as FSC: 

Several supply chain issues have created limitations in the past but most historical issues have been resolved. Paper laminates, liners, and backers in addition to dowels and even some exotic woods can now be sourced as FSC.  Today, homebuilders are now building entire homes with 100% FSC certified wood.

Myth 5) FSC is a flash in the pan: 

FSC certification has mirrored the exponential growth of green building since inception in 1993, despite the recent recession. There are now 27,457 certified companies in the world and 446 million acres of certified forest land. The number of certified companies has grown by over 5,000 in the past two years, representing a 25% growth rate.

Myth 6) LEED is getting rid of the FSC wood MR7 point: 

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) continues to uphold its commitment to the FSC. Last year the council voted to reject alternative wood certification programs. Additionally, The Living Building Challenge (the next generation of green building standards) has a prerequisite for FSC wood. 

Myth 7) There is no demand for FSC: 

Building with FSC certified wood, holds valuable and demonstrative weight. Fortune 500 companies like Walmart, Kimberly-Clark, Home Depot, Staples, International Paper, Hilton, and Unilever are getting involved using and selling FSC products and currently all have FSC purchasing policies. 

LEED-certification has built a solid market for FSC materials. There are now 50,000 LEED projects worldwide representing 10.1 billion square feet of commercial and institutional construction space. 1.5 million feet are added each day. 60% of LEED construction is happening inside the US. Companies not seeing FSC demand represent a shrinking segment of the wood products industry.

Myth 8) Fabrication facilities that install do not need FSC certification: 

Fabricators who substantially modify wood products prior to installation to meet LEED MRc7 (FSC) point criteria are required to possess and used FSC chain of custody. This issue was clarified by published addenda (pg. 28) on July 19th, 2010, by the USGBC. The addendum states, "facilities that fabricate or alter product beyond that which is necessary for installation are required to hold FSC certification."

Myth 9) FSC material costs more and is lower quality:

Costs More - Many examples of competitive pricing exist. A recent article written by KC Eisenberg, Director of Sales, Sustainable Northwest Wood evaluates their FSC product costs compared with non-FSC options and finds no difference for some of their FSC product lines. The trend is not isolated to wood markets. When looking at paper, increasingly there is no price difference between FSC and non-FSC paper products.

Lower Quality - FSC wood exists in all quality grades. The FSC standard does not assign or evaluate grade. If a supplier sells wood that doesn't meet ANSI quality or equivalent specifications the goods are not fit for commerce as advertised. FSC certification is a subset of a firm's quality management approach. 

Myth 10) FSC certification does not provide market access or differentiation: 

Many businesses see FSC certification's main value as market access and differentiation. With over 4,500 certified companies in North America more and more businesses are deciding to join in and take advantage of the growing FSC wood products market. FSC logos can help provide very cost effective brand recognition and acceptance by consumers. The brand is now seen daily in grocery stores, home improvement centers, and in mailboxes. For more information on FSC and its history and growth: FSC Facts and Figures.

Contact Paul Vanderford to get started: phone: (503) 730-9434, e-mail: paulv@sustainablenorthwest.org