FSC Certification When Importing from Asia: A Complete Guide

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FSC certification in China

Planning to import wood products or packaging carrying the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) from China, Vietnam or elsewhere in Asia? In this article, I explain how an FSC supply chain works, and what you must do to use the prestigious FSC logo on your product or packaging.

This is covered

  • Which products can carry the FSC logo?
  • What is FSC Certification?
  • FSC Forest Management Certification
  • FSC Chain of Custody Certification
  • FSC 100% and FSC Mix Labels
  • When can importers use the FSC Label?
  • How do I know if a supplier in Asia is FSC COC certified?
  • FSC when buying from trading companies

Which products can carry the FSC logo?

The FSC logo can be used on various types of wood and paper products, including but not limited to the following:

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What is FSC Certification?

The FSC works with accredited partners that, through carrying out on-site forest visits, ensure that the forest is managed according to their 10 core principles. Here’s a shortened version:

1. Comply with all applicable laws, regulations and nationally-ratified international treaties

2. Maintain or enhance the social and economic wellbeing of workers.

3. Identify and uphold Indigenous Peoples’ legal and customary rights of ownership, use, and management of land, territories and resources affected by management activities.

4. Contribute to maintaining or enhancing the social and economic wellbeing of local communities.

5. 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. Maintain, conserve and/or restore ecosystem services and environmental values of the forest

7. Have a management plan consistent with its policies and objectives and proportionate to scale, intensity and risks of its management activities.

8. Demonstrate that, progress towards achieving the management objectives.

9. Maintain and/or enhance the High Conservation Values in the Management Unit

10. 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.

Wood products and paper packaging that originate from an FSC certified forest (called Management Unit) can carry the FSC logo.

FSC Forest Management Certification

This FSC certificate is only issued to forest owners that comply with the 10 principles above, and pass on-site inspections by FSC accredited partners.

For example, a product packaging supplier must source raw materials from a company with a Forest Management Certification in order for you to use the FSC logo on your packaging.

FSC Chain of Custody Certification

The CoC certificate is issued to companies buying raw material or pulp originally supplied by the forest owner. The FSC Chain of Custody Certification tracks the raw materials through invoicing and tracking labels – to ensure that it originates from a forest owner with FSC Forest Management Certification.

This can be relatively complex, as the supply chain involves several companies before the timber is processed into, for example, product packaging or wooden toys.

FSC Supply Chain

Each company must also comply with the FSC-STD-40-004 Chain of Custody Certification standard, which sets standards for each operator’s internal material management system. The purpose is to ensure that raw materials from non-FSC certified forest don’t carry the FSC logo.

That said, there are different types of FSC logos:

FSC 100%: The product only contains material from an FSC-certified forest

FSC Mix: The product contains material from both an FSC-certified forest and of non-FCS origin (although some restrictions are still in place for the non-FSC material).

FSC Mixed Supply Chain

As mentioned, the mix is tracked through the invoicing process. For example, the material supplier must state the composition of both FSC certified and non-FSC certified raw materials in the invoice issued to your supplier.

When can importers use the FSC Label?

You can only use the FSC logo if you buy products from an FSC COC certified supplier, or if your company becomes FSC COC certified. Whether or not you need to be COC certified depends on whether you alter the product design and materials.

a. Finished Products

There’s no need to become FSC COC If you buy a finished product from a supplier with FSC COC certification. However, you still need to apply for an FSC trademark license and you are not allowed to make any design changes.

b. Custom Designed Products

You must be FSC COC certified to use the FSC if you make design changes to existing products or order products that are manufactured based on your design specifications. This is the case even if your company is only buying products from a manufacturer.

c. Private Label Products

FSC COC certification is required even if you only change the logo and product packaging.

How do I know if a supplier in China is FSC COC certified?

All certified suppliers can provide a verifiable FSC COC Certificate, issued by a third party such as Bureau Veritas.

FSC COC Certificate Sample

FSC COC Sample

Document Checklist
  • Is the company name matching your supplier’s company name?
  • Is the product and/or material matching your product?
  • Is the certificate still valid?

Note: The FSC COC Certificate is either invalid or non-applicable to your business if the answer is ‘no’ to any of the questions in the document checklist.

a. FSC Certificate Databank

You can enter the COC certificate number in the public FSC database to verify if the document is authentic. I recommend that you always do this when assessing new suppliers.

b. Sourcing FSC certified suppliers on Alibaba.com

Alibaba.com allows you to filter suppliers based on various company and management certificates, including FSC. This option is found in the lower left sidebar, and can quickly help you filter out suppliers claiming to be FSC certified.

That said, you must still obtain and verify their FSC COC certificate.

c. Sourcing FSC certified suppliers on Globalsources.com

Globalsources.com, another major B2B supplier directory, also has the option to filter suppliers based on company certificates, FSC included.

d. Trade Shows

FSC certified suppliers are always proud to showcase their capabilities and tend to place their FSC certificate in their booth. Keep an eye out for the FSC logo and you’ll find plenty of suppliers next time you visit the Canton Fair.

FSC when buying from trading companies

FSC requires that the entire supply chain, from forest to finished product, is intact. As such, there cannot be a single missing link (e.g. non-FSC COC certified party) in the supply chain.

As such, you can only use the FSC logo if the trading company is also FSC COC certified – which is extremely rare. The trading company cannot use an FSC COC certificate issued in another company’s name.

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