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what does the FSC® seal mean?

The term "sustainability" comes directly from the forest - and even today, green forestry is incredibly important. Forests are CO2 reservoirs, habitats for countless animals and plants, and recreational spaces for people. At the same time, it is impossible to imagine our everyday life without raw materials from the forest. Whether furniture or paper - nothing works without wood. How can I, as a customer, support sustainable forestry? By looking for the right seal.

FSC letters

Definition: What is the FSC® seal?

The FSC seal is awarded by the Forest Stewardship Council . It certifies products from sustainable forestry; most people therefore know it from furniture and paper. The FSC sees sustainability in all three dimensions (ecological, social and economic) and its members therefore reflect all three areas: they are companies, environmental organisations, trade unions and even representatives of indigenous peoples.

Together they develop standards that are sustainable from an economic, social and ecological perspective and at the same time implementable. New decisions can only be implemented if the members of all three chambers agree.

Accordingly, the FSC includes ecological specifications on plant protection products or the protection of indigenous wood species, but also social specifications such as occupational health and safety and training.

FSC works on an international level and strives for uniform standards worldwide. The basic principles are therefore the same in all countries - but the concrete specifications are adapted to the different local conditions in each case.

Roe deer
The FSC standards include, among other things, strict ecological specifications.

What and who is FSC certified?

Tree trunks
FSC guarantees an unbroken chain of custody.

In Germany, about 1.44 million hectares are certified - this corresponds to about 11% of the German forests. The largest certified operation is ForstBW, i.e. the state forest of Baden-Württemberg.

In addition, there are more than 2,200 German companies that have been certified for further production:
This "chain of custody certification" ensures that only FSC wood really bears the FSC seal in the end. The respective companies have developed internal procedures to be able to distinguish the woods at any time.

So in the end, the product is only labelled with the FSC seal if all participants in the supply chain have been certified.

FSC Mix, FSC 100 - what exactly does that mean?

There are a total of three label categories, which refer either to the product itself or to the product packaging. What exactly is meant must be made clear in the label text.

FSC Recycled: It is 100 percent recycled material.

FSC Mix: The product (or packaging) consists of at least 70% FSC-certified wood and/or recycled material. The remaining 30% must meet the FSC Controlled Wood minimum standards. Illegally harvested wood is prohibited, as is wood from genetically modified tree species.

FSC 100%: The material for this product comes entirely from FSC-certified forests. It is difficult to achieve this for paper, cardboard and carton, so the seal is rather rare here. It is more common for furniture and other solid wood products.

Each label stands for sustainable forest management.

The most common is the FSC Mix label, which accounts for about 80% of the market share. In contrast, FSC 100% and FSC Recycled each account for about 10% of the FSC seals.

How strict and credible is FSC? - Criticism

Compliance with the FSC criteria is verified during annual on-site inspections and the product chain certification - i.e. the fact that the processing joineries, etc. must also be certified - guarantees a high level of product traceability. The seal is therefore very credible.

The (German) standards themselves are also considered a relatively good compromise between ecological, social and economic interests. For many environmental organisations, it is currently the only credible seal that advocates ecological forestry.

stacked logs
FSC faces different issues in each country.

The standards that apply in other countries, on the other hand, are criticised more frequently. In Russia, for example, wood is cleared from virgin forests - by clear-cutting. Due to the cold climate, the tree population here cannot recover for a long time, with all the consequences for the local flora and fauna.

This wood can still be FSC-certified if a small part of the forest remains.
For Greenpeace Germany, this approach was therefore the reason to end its membership in FSC Germany in 2018.
(In many other countries, however, Greenpeace continues to be part of the national FSC organisation).

FSC, on the other hand,justifies its decision as follows: "Large-scale forest fires or storm damage create similar ecological situations for the forest as clear-cutting and are part of the natural cycle there. Corresponding interventions in the boreal forest have weakened negative effects compared to our temperate latitudes." Therefore, the FSC does not implement a general ban on clear-cutting, but protects "large-scale key biotopes" identified according to WWF standards(source).

Is the PEFC label an alternative to FSC?

PEFC also aims to protect forests and manage them more sustainably. However, both the requirements and the controls are significantly weaker than those of FSC.

About 2/3 of German forests are already PEFC-certified.
This is possible because forest owners are already considered certified with the voluntary commitment they have made and low fees (for less than 50 hectares, a flat rate of € 5/year). Checks and on-site audits are only carried out on a random basis.

Environmental organisations like NABU therefore only recommend the FSC seal. For Greenpeace Germany, too, PEFC is even "not a real certificate at all, because there the industry checks itself."(Source).

Where can I find FSC-certified wood and paper products?

FSC is widely used for some products. For example, many retailers carry printer paper and the like with a seal.

If you are looking for a specific product - for example a piece of furniture - you can also find it in the FSC database. Unfortunately, the search does not work freely, but it can be quite helpful.


The FSC organisation aims at sustainable forest management. It involves ecological, social and economic actors and can only adopt new standards and specifications if all three chambers agree to them. The result is a compromise: the ecological standards are high, but not high enough from the point of view of environmental organisations.

At the same time, FSC is the only credible seal on the market. Other seals such as PEFC are no alternative - the specifications are significantly less strict and implementation is little controlled.