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FSC Certification and Wood Pellets

The Forest Stewardship Council is the world’s leader in forest certification. Its group of experts recognizes proper forest management practices that prioritizes conservation, restoration, and scientifically driven solutions that lead to the responsible and sustainable uses of forests and its resources. FSC produces strict certification standards for forest managers and companies that utilize forest resources for its products. An FSC label on a company’s products prove that those products were produced from sustainably managed forests, and are usually higher in price and qualify compared to other products without FSC certification.

In terms of the wood pellet market, due to the rise in wood pellet demands in countries like Japan and South Korea, a large amount of wood pellets produced to satisfy that demand was proven to be harmful to the forests where raw materials were taken from. Since the carbon-neutral property of wood pellet fuel and other biomass energy types in general is contingent on the proper management of forests where feedstock were taken from, wood pellet importers began implementing strict quality control over its imported pellets, with FSC certifications being one of the most important tools. This means that wood pellet producers should and must acquire a certification from FSC in order to sell their products in markets like South Korea or Japan at the time this report is being written.

There are 3 main types of FSC certification: Forest Management (FM), Chain of Custody (CoC) and Controlled Wood (CW). FM certifications certify properly managed forests according to FSC’s standards, while CoC certifications recognize the separation and isolation of FSC-certified materials throughout the supply chain, so the final product is actually produced by FSC-approved procedures and materials, and CW is the minimum standard for uncertified materials by FSC standards (not FM). At the moment the most common form of certification is FSC Mix, which is a combination of CW and FM materials in production, but FSC has stated in its 2020 plans to increase the quantity of FM certified products and reduce the percentage of CW materials in its FSC Mix products, so we can anticipate an increase in the demand for FM-certified products, especially in the wood pellet industry.

Details of FSC certification types:

Forest Management (FM): There are ten principles that any forest operation must adhere to before it can receive FSC forest management certification. These principles cover a broad range of issues, from maintaining high conservation values to community relations and workers’ rights, as well as monitoring the environmental and social impacts of forest management. The 10 principles are as follow:

  1. Compliance with laws: The Organization shall comply with all applicable laws, regulations and nationally- ratified international treaties, conventions and agreements.

  2. Workers Rights and Employment Condition: The Organization shall maintain or enhance the social and economic wellbeing of workers.

  3. Indigenous Peoples’ Rights: The Organization shall identify and uphold Indigenous Peoples’ legal and customary rights of ownership, use and management of land, territories and resources affected by management activities.

  4. Community Relations: The Organization shall contribute to maintaining or enhancing the social and economic wellbeing of local communities.

  5. Benefits from the Forest: The Organization shall efficiently manage the range of multiple products and services of the Management Unit to maintain or enhance long term economic viability and the range of environmental and social benefits.

  6. Environmental Values and Impacts: The Organization shall maintain, conserve and/or restore ecosystem services and environmental values of the Management Unit, and shall avoid, repair or mitigate negative environmental impacts.

  7. Management Planning: The Organization shall have a management plan consistent with its policies and objectives and proportionate to scale, intensity and risks of its management activities. The management plan shall be implemented and kept up to date based on monitoring information in order to promote adaptive management. The associated planning and procedural documentation shall be sufficient to guide staff, inform affected stakeholders and interested stakeholders and to justify management decision

  8. Monitoring and Assessment: The Organization shall demonstrate that, progress towards achieving the management objectives, the impacts of management activities and the condition of the Management Unit, are monitored and evaluated proportionate to the scale, intensity and risk of management activities, in order to implement adaptive management.

  9. High Conservation Values: The Organization shall maintain and/or enhance the High Conservation Values in the Management Unit through applying the precautionary approach.

  10. Implementation of Management Activities: Management activities conducted by or for The Organization for the Management Unit shall be selected and implemented consistent with The Organization’s economic, environmental and social policies and objectives and in compliance with the Principles and Criteria collectively.

Chain of Custody (CoC): FSC chain of custody certification provides credible assurance for products with environmentally and socially responsible sources to access the market. This means that consumers can be certain that products that they purchased conformed to FSC standards in every step of production. At the moment, most wood pellet companies are required to be 100% CoC certified in order to export to major consumers of wood pellets like Japan or South Korea.

Controlled Wood (CW): Controlled wood is material from acceptable sources that can be mixed with FSC-certified material in products that carry the 'FSC Mix' label. The controlled wood requirements identify five categories of unacceptable sources, which cannot be mixed with FSC-certified material. These are:

  • Illegally harvested wood

  • wood harvested in violation of traditional and human rights

  • wood harvested in forests in which high conservation values (HCVs) are threatened by management activities

  • wood harvested in forests being converted to plantations or non-forest use

  • wood from forests in which genetically modified trees are planted

According to the latest strategic plans bby FSC for the year 2020, FSC Mix is the most common type of certification used. FSC is looking forward to reducing the percentage composition of CW materials in their products, pushing for more FM in the future. This new strategic direction is reflected in the requirements in quality for imported wood pellets


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