As consumers and as a society, we face a big quandary: we need to use and consume things to survive and build the lifestyles we enjoy, but we also realize we can’t do so at the expense of our long-term future and that of our environment and ecosystem.

Nowhere is this problem more evident than with forest products. They provide vital building materials, paper, tissues, and many other consumer products we use every day.  How can we benefit from these products while ensuring we don’t destroy our forests for the future?

That’s the role of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the world’s leading forest certification organization, active in 84 countries and with Canada playing a leading role. FSC Canada is working to ensure more and more of Canada’s forests are managed so they will meet the needs of all Canadians — forever.

“We set the key standards for responsible forest management to ensure they are sustainable, protect the environment and the rights and wishes of Aboriginal peoples, while also being able to meet economic needs,” says Francois Dufresne, the President of FSC Canada. “Fibre from certified forests is tracked all the way to the store, allowing consumers to have high confidence in FSC-certified wood, paper, and other forest products that have the FSC label.”

FSC is committed to developing and maintaining high standards for responsible forestry in Canada, and its new National Forest Management Standard is set to further support healthy forests. This includes ensuring Aboriginal rights in forest management planning, protection of endangered species, and recognition of progressive labour practices, while confirming that forests are essential to sustain rural and northern livelihoods. One species at risk is the boreal woodland caribou, which relies on an undisturbed forest for survival. The state of the caribou population is a sign of the health of the boreal forest. 

Aboriginal role in forestry management

FSC is committed to incorporating the free, prior, and informed consent of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples into certification requirements, with the goal of increasing meaningful and tangible benefits, to Aboriginal peoples and the forest sector.

“We believe it is the right of Aboriginal peoples to make free and informed choices about the development of their lands and resources,” says Dufresne.  “This will protect their right to negotiate and make decisions regarding development activities.”

He adds that these decisions must be free from coercion or intimidation before the start of development activities.  Any decisions are based on the information available regarding the scope and impact of the proposed development.

The benefits of certification

Certification raises industry standards in forest management, while setting a benchmark for companies. FSC certification is the only such framework supported by key environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund.

With public and private organizations worldwide enacting stringent requirements for wood products to be sourced using environmentally responsible practices, FSC certification gives companies access to many otherwise inaccessible markets, along with enchancing their corporate reputation.

Consumers also play a vital role. By looking for and supporting FSC-certified businesses and products, the public can help protect forest ecosystems around the world for future generations.