What every designer ought to know about: FSC

What every designer ought to know about: FSC

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FSC Logo

According to AGDA (Australian Graphic Design Association) Code of Ethics…

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2.1 – A Member shall work in a manner so that as little harm (direct or indirect) as possible is caused to the natural environment.

So it makes me wonder… how many of you actually know what the logo above means? You would most probably have seen it on the back of a brochure or catalogue – well in this article we* hope to shed some light on what the FSC (Forest Steward Council) certification actually means, and how you too can use it to help sustain the world’s forests.

What is the FSC (Forest Steward Council)?

FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organization established in 1993 to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests.

It provides standard setting, trademark assurance and accreditation services for companies and organisations interested in responsible forestry. Products carrying the FSC label are independently certified to assure consumers that they come from forests that are managed to meet the social, economic and ecological needs of present and future generations.

How does FSC implement this?

FSC developed “The Chain of Custody Process” which insures trees cut from FSC managed forests will go through the FSC certified process. This rigorous 5 step process ensures that all environmental and social obligations have been followed and have achieved the stamp of approval – the FSC logo (as seen below).


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For example, if you receive a postcard with this symbol on it, you will know that it has gone through 5 different FSC certified processes since it was cut down. The chain goes something like this Pulp Manufacturer > Paper Manufacturer > Paper Merchant > (Designer) > Printer > Approval from FSC.

Where does the FSC logo go and what does it mean?

The FSC logo goes on any piece of design that is printed on FSC certified paper and is printed through an FSC certified printer. It is also appears on timber and other items that are FSC certified.

Once you have completed your own design and you have put the FSC logo in its place, you then submit your design to the printer… the printer then needs to submit the piece and all specs to FSC to get the green light to print.

In most cases, underneath the FSC logo it will contain a certification number. This contains the printers ID number, percentage of post consumer waste plus any other recycled information. This information helps verify that the Chain of Custody process has been followed.

What can you do to help support FSC?

You - Photo by bunnyrel

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Image credit: Bunnyrel

FSC’s mission is to improve the management of the world’s forests. There are many ways you can support:

  • as a consumer you can buy FSC certified products
  • as a business in the forest products business, you can become FSC certified
  • you can promote the FSC by using the FSC logo on your products (you must be authorised to do so – information here)
  • everybody interested in the fate of the world’s forests can become an FSC member and actively contribute to the future of the organisation.

Worth mentioning

And just so you know… only 7 percent of the world’s productive forests are FSC certified. This global organisation, active in 79 countries, has an extremely ambitious agenda, a long way to go and must do everything possible to keep itself above reproach.

In saying that, worth mentioning is FSC Watch – an independent website (not associated with FSC) dedicated to encouraging the scrutiny of the FSC’s activities. FSC Watch aims to increase the integrity of the FSC’s forest certification scheme.

Have you ever been involved in an FSC project? Have you got any more information to share? Please let us know in the comments below.

*This article was written in collaboration with Jessica Mahoney.

11 thoughts on “What every designer ought to know about: FSC”

  1. Hi Jacob,
    Thanks for this really useful information. I have just seen the FSC logo couple of times before, but now I know what is underneath.
    The FSC is doing really good work and everybody should support for this.

    You have also done a great job by providing such information.
    Hats off for you.

  2. Wow, did not know that. The closet thing I came across is the recycling symbol;) What a long process but a good cause none the less.

  3. I don’t know this …
    But the first thing I saw, was a “thumbs down” icon …

    You see at least the tree and everybody is able to understand the context, but I wonder if the designer knew this …

  4. I thought it was Forest Stewardship Council. Anyhow, yes, I know what it meant. Had to teach 11 year olds about it.

    Very interesting read, thank you!

  5. A good article, and one which I think touches on elements of the Design Can Change campaign that SmashLab initiated:


    We try to be as responsible as we can at our studio (though don’t always get it right). But as The Hulk will tell you, it’s hard being green!

  6. Also worth mentioning is SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative). In my experience, FSC is the prevalent auditing program due to it’s comprehensive system. However, many printers will carry both FSC and SFI paper stock. It’s in the designer’s best interest to know the difference between the two when planning a project.

  7. Bram,
    That would have been interesting, was there anything else myself or Jessica left out, or anything you would add?

    Thanks for the link to Design Can Change, I was not aware of that. I also liked your Hulk quote.

    That is interesting, I still can’t see a thumbs down. I think the tick and the tree together are a valid solution.

    Thanks for the mention of SFI, I was not aware of this initiative. Do know much of the difference between the two?

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