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Wood you believe it?


If I was to held up two pieces of wood in front of you, could you tell me which one came from a responsibly managed forest, and which was logged illegally? Of course you couldn’t – and neither could I for that matter!

FSC logs from MexicoFSC logs, sustainably harvested from the Uzachi forest in Oaxaca, Mexico © N.C. Turner / WWF-Canon

That’s the problem many people – and indeed local authorities – face when looking to buy wood and paper from responsible sources. It can seem a daunting task and the plethora of environmental labels can be confusing. How do you know what to ask for, and how do you know what you’re being told is accurate?

When looking to buy wood products from environmentally responsible sources there are two types of checks that you need to do:

Check up front to make sure that the company you are looking to buy from can meet your expectations

A stack of FSC sourced woodThe FSC mark is used when the tree is harvested, processed and eventually sold. © Benjamin Ealovega / WWF-UK

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the most credible certification system to ensure environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable management of forests. It operates a “Chain of Custody” system that means timber and paper products can be tracked right back to the forest that the wood came from. FSC certification provides assurance that this forest has been managed responsibly.

Ask the supplier to show you their unique Chain of Custody certificate number (for example, TT-COC-1234). You can then validate this number by going to the FSC database – here you can check whether their certificate is valid, and whether it covers the products you want to buy.

Checking once you’ve placed the order

Once you’ve placed an order for FSC-certified products, the only way to be sure that you’ve got what you asked for is via the invoice(s) that you receive from the supplier. The invoice should include their Chain of Custody number and correctly identify the products bought as FSC – as in the examples below:

Example FSC invoice - Eco Timber Trading Ltd

Example FSC invoice - the Ethical Paper Co

I’ll be in touch with a new blog next month – in the meantime you can find out more about our local authority campaign.

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