Chain of Custody Certification

FSC chain of custody certification provides credible confirmation for products with environmentally and socially responsible sources to access the market.

Chain of Custody certification is required to manufacturers, processors and traders of FSC certified products. The Chain of Custody certificate confirms that all products are made from raw materials originating from forests, where forest management is conducted responsibly and certified according to FSC requirements.

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CoC certification

FSC chain of custody certification verifies that FSC-certified material has been identified and separated from non-certified and non-controlled material as it makes its way along the supply chain, from the forest to the market.

To achieve chain of custody certification, your business must meet the FSC-STD-40-004 Chain of Custody Certification standard.

All sizes and organizational structures are possible for chain of custody certification, including single-site, multi-site, and groups of organizations, enabling certification cost optimization.

The following relevant documents are available to download in the document centre:

FSC-STD-40-004 Chain of Custody Certification

FSC-STD-40-003 Chain of Custody Certification of Multiple Sites

FSC-certified products may carry a different composition, including FSC-certified forest material (FSC 100%), controlled wood and/or reclaimed material, the latter being introduced in recognition of the important role that reclaimed material plays in protecting the world’s forests.

The following relevant document is available to download in the document centre:

FSC-STD-40-007 Sourcing reclaimed material for use in FSC Product Groups or FSC Certified Projects

Project certification

FSC project certification provides third-party verification for projects made of or containing forest-based materials from responsible sources. There is a range of options for certifying organizations of all sizes that manage projects, from small to large entities, as well as a variety of project types, for example, a single wooden boat, office building, a subdivision of houses, a civil engineering project, event infrastructure (concert stages, seating).

Find out more about project certification in the following document, available in the document centre:

FSC-STD-40-006 FSC Chain of Custody Standard for Project Certification

Controlled wood

Controlled wood is material from acceptable sources that can be mixed with FSC-certified material in products that carry the 'FSC Mix' label. FSC controlled wood is not from FSC certified forests but rather from areas covered by FSC’s system for avoiding the use of virgin wood from five unacceptable sources:

  1. Illegally harvested wood; 
  2. Wood harvested in violation of traditional and human rights; 
  3. Wood from forests in which high conservation values are threatened by management activities; 
  4. Wood from forests being converted to plantations or non-forest use; and 
  5. Wood from forests in which genetically modified trees are planted. 

The goals of the system are to mitigate the risk that non-certified material used in the manufacture of FSC MIX products is linked to practices that harm forests and people; AND to reduce, and eventually eliminate, those risks over time by addressing the problems that underlie these practices.

The risk that wood may fall into any of these categories is determined by assessments that FSC has conducted and published for many forested countries in the world. These are called National Risk Assessments (NRAs). The NRA for any given country assesses risks across all five controlled wood categories in great depth and detail. When risks are identified, they are deemed “specified risk” in FSC terminology. The NRA sets out “control measures” that companies apply to mitigate them.

There are two ways that material can be designated as controlled wood:

  1. The source forest can be audited to FSC’s controlled wood standard for forest management (FSC-STD-30-010) to determine if any risks specified in the relevant NRA are present at the local level and if so, whether they are being adequately addressed.
  2. Manufacturers can control their non-certified inputs by being audited against FSC’s controlled wood standard for chain of custody (FSC-STD-40-005). This requires them to adopt a due diligence system that must incorporate numerous elements. These include mechanisms to identify the source forest(s) for the non-certified virgin material they buy and, where a forest contains areas of specified risk, how they will implement any control measures mandated under the relevant NRA. The company must also have a system for addressing stakeholder complaints.

One of the major benefits of the controlled wood system is that it extends FSC’s influence beyond FSC-certified forests to address significant threats to non-certified forests all over the world.

The controlled wood standard

FSC-STD-40-005 V3-1 FSC Requirements for Sourcing FSC Controlled Wood - This standard directs businesses to avoid sourcing material from unacceptable sources. You can find our written summary of the important dates and deadlines introduced by V3-1 of the standard here.

Controlled wood risk assessments

FSC risk assessments are used to determine the risk of an organization obtaining material from unacceptable wood sources when sourcing controlled wood.

For companies with, or seeking, chain of custody certification that need to source controlled wood from non-FSC certified suppliers, risk assessments must be used.

FSC risk assessments can either be a Centralized National Risk Assessment (CNRA), developed by the Performance and Standards Unit, or a National Risk Assessment (NRA), developed by a partner in the country.

The approved FSC risk assessment for Belarus can be found in the FSC document centre:


The Credit & Percentage Systems

There are two ways that companies can manufacture FSC MIX products.

The credit system

This is a volume-in/volume-out system where the quantity of “contributing inputs”—FSC-certified material and/or reclaimed material—determines the quantity of outputs that can be sold (invoiced) as “FSC MIX Credit” and labeled as FSC MIX. This is usually managed by using contributing inputs to build credits in a credit account for outputs, applying a conversion factor to the former to account for waste and changes in units of measure. All the non-certified virgin (i.e., not reclaimed) material that is mixed with contributing inputs in the manufacturing process must be controlled wood. 

For example, when a sawmill operates under the credit system, it will typically have credit accounts for two product types: 1) the lumber that is its main product; and 2) the residuals chips and sawdust—that are a by-product and can be used to make paper and fiber-based wood products like particleboard and medium-density fiberboard (MDF). When the sawmill buys a given quantity of logs from FSC-certified forests, it applies two separate conversion factors to the quantity to build credits in a lumber account (where the unit of measure is board feet or cubic meters) and a residuals account (where the unit of measure is dry metric tons). When it sells FSC MIX products of either type, it deducts the volume sold from the appropriate account. As the credits in its accounts run low, the sawmill can buy more FSC-certified logs and build the accounts back up. Thus, a credit account is a bit like a bank account—you can’t withdraw money that isn’t there, and if you run out, you have to deposit more in order to make future withdrawals. 

Another example would be if a paper company uses three types of inputs in its manufacturing: chips from virgin timber, sawmill residuals, and post-consumer recycled paper. The company can build credits in its paper account based on the volume of FSC-certified chips, FSC-certified residuals (If these residuals come from a sawmill that is using the credit system, then the residuals will be “FSC MIX credit” instead of “FSC 100%” (i.e., deriving directly from FSC-certified forests), and reclaimed material it purchases, applying the appropriate conversion factors to the latter to calculate the quantity of the former.

In both cases, all the non-certified virgin chips and residuals coming into the manufacturing process must be controlled wood.

The percentage system

The percentage system is like the credit system in many respects: the contributing inputs are the same as is the requirement that all virgin inputs have to be controlled wood. Instead of using volume-in and volume-out, however, the amount of contributing inputs relative to the overall quantity of inputs is used to calculate a percentage of FSC content, and this is reported when products are INVOICED (B2B) as “FSC MIX [XYZ]%,” where XYZ is the percentage of contributing inputs, but can only be LABELLED as FSC MIX when this percentage is a minimum of 70% .

A major difference between the credit and percentage systems is that ALL the manufacturing outputs can bear the FSC MIX label if there is a minimum of 70% of FSC 100% (or Mix Credit) and/or FSC-reclaimed content, and you cannot use the FSC MIX label at all unless this threshold is met. The reason for this is to give manufacturers an incentive to increase their FSC-certified supply so they can meet the threshold.

For example, if a sawmill buys 25% of its logs from FSC-certified forests (FSC 100%) and the remaining 75% is controlled wood, it could INVOICE all of the lumber it makes as “FSC MIX 25%,” but it couldn’t use the FSC LABEL on any of it. However, if it bought 80% of its logs as FSC-certified and the rest as controlled wood, it could invoice all the lumber as “FSC MIX 80%,” and it could label all the lumber as FSC MIX.

In the same way, if a paper manufacturer’s inputs were 20 tons of virgin chips, 50 tons of virgin residuals, and 30 tons post-consumer recycled paper, and half of the chips were FSC-certified, and the residuals were all controlled wood, then the percentage calculation would be 10 tons chips + 30 tons recycled over 100 tons total = 40%. The company could sell all the paper as “FSC MIX 40%” but couldn’t put the FSC label on any of it. However, if the residuals were also FSC-certified, it would reach a total of 90%. The company could sell this paper as “FSC MIX 90%” and label all of it as FSC MIX.

Document Centre

From policies, to national standards, to controlled wood risk assessments, the most up-to-date versions of documents from our normative framework can be found here in the FSC document centre. 


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