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January 31st, 2014

What is FSC certified paper?

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by Valerie Williams

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification on a log

As numerous types of businesses are “going green” these days, many in the print industry have been leading the charge to use recycled materials and reduce waste for some time now.

Many organizations are working to help the print industry go green as much as possible, and one of the most well-known organizations is the Forward Stewardship Council (FSC).

It should be noted that paper doesn’t have to be FSC certified to be environmentally friendly, and that there are many types of recycled paper available from a wide variety of sources.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

One of largest and most prominent organizations ensuring the conservation and responsible tree growth is the Forest Stewardship Council, commonly known as the  FSC. This council tracks and manages forests, milling, and manufacturing processes.

Here’s how the organization puts it:

Our vision is that we can meet our current needs for forest products without compromising the health of the world’s forests for future generations.

FSC Certification

There are two types of FSC Certification: Forest Management Certification and Chain-of-Custody Certification. Every FSC Certified paper product is overseen by certified groups from seedling to end product.

- Forest Management Certification

All FSC certified materials originate in forests managed by strict FSC principles and criteria. Among these is that owners and operators of the forests must maintain “efficient use of the forest’s multiple products and services to ensure economic viability and a wide range of environmental and social benefits.”

In other words, it’s not just the trees in the forest getting attention, but the whole forest ecosystem.

- Chain-of-Custody Certification

Chain-of-Custody begins as soon as a tree is ready to be taken from the forest. Oversight continues from this point until a paper product is in the hands of the end user. To be FSC Certified, every company in the supply chain, including “harvesters, processors, manufacturers, distributors, printers, retailers” must also be certified.

Obviously this close inspection is meant to ensure that every step of the way is as friendly to the environment as possible – both in the present and for the future.

Benefits Beyond the Environment

In addition to helping the environment, many have found somewhat unique benefits in using FSC material for certain projects.

FSC certified paper can bring a natural look and feel to your next book or marketing collateral, and many paper mills have begun to obtain their FSC certifications as they are finding the marketplace is demanding more eco-friendly alternatives. Neenah, Gilbert, and Fox River are just a few mills that have noticed the shift.

The stock is also very easy to print on commercial offset presses and digital presses alike.

The Fine Print

However, to every up there must be a down: the cost of obtaining an initial review and annual audits for FSC re-certification it is quite costly for a printer to absorb. These costs unfortunately are passed along to the customer.

FSC certified paper could increase the cost up to 20% from a non-certified recycled stock. You’ll want to take the specific project, client, budget, and message into account when deciding if going green with FSC stock is the right choice for you.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons