Deforestation and forest degradation

FSC is an effective tool for implementing strict practices which are proven to be a solution against deforestation and degradation.

Deforestation and forest degradation are some of the biggest threats facing forests worldwide.

Deforestation takes place when forests are converted to non-forest uses, such as agriculture or urbanization. While forest degradation is changes within a natural forest or High Conservation Value area that significantly and negatively affect its species composition, structure and/or function, and reduces the ecosystem’s capacity to supply products, support biodiversity and/or deliver ecosystem services (more information can be found in FSC’s Policy to Address Conversion – effective starting 1 July 2023).

One of the drivers of deforestation and degradation is the ever-increasing pressure to produce more timber and other forest-based products. Other drivers include conversion of forests for agriculture, infrastructure expansion and mining.  

Providing solutions to combat deforestation through a set of rules that define responsible forest management is FSC’s response to the challenges that are posed by this growing demand.

FSC has several strict requirements in place to ensure that certified forest management units maintain the cover, biodiversity and productivity of forests. These include indicators for planning and monitoring forest management interventions, assessing risks and evaluating their impacts on forests, which are complemented by specific requirements for areas with high conservation value (HCV) including intact forest landscapes. This guarantees that activities in forests do not harm their biodiversity, while securing the essential needs as well as cultural and spiritual values of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.  

FSC is a tool to fight deforestation

For nearly three decades, FSC has been advocating for a holistic approach towards the responsible use of forests - including protection in some areas - where governments, businesses, Indigenous Peoples and other stakeholders actively participate in setting the policies to protect forests. FSC certification incorporates safeguarding measures to prevent deforestation in natural forests and plantations – particularly in protected areas.

FSC does not certify plantations on lands that have been previously converted. Please refer to this article for more information. The management of certified plantations must demonstrate conformity with the strict rules FSC has in place for responsible forest management. This includes a set of requirements for forest managers such as identifying high conservation value areas, maintaining them and restoring natural ecosystem areas where there are no remaining natural ecosystems. The rules also prohibit the use of certain chemical pesticides while regulating the use of other pesticides as well as fertilizers, among many others.

Deforestation is also addressed in the FSC Policy for Association (PfA) as the first of the six unacceptable activities that violate this Policy. FSC’s PfA is a unique tool that provides a pathway for taking strong action against companies who engage in destructive activities. When a company gets certified by FSC, it agrees to the terms of the PfA and can be held accountable for violations of the policy by any member of the organisation or corporate group.


On the European anti-Deforestation Regulation (EUDR)

In December 2022, the European Union (EU) reached an agreement on a new anti-deforestation regulation (EUDR). Once it comes into force, the new regulation will prohibit products linked to deforestation and forest degradation from being sold and exported to and from EU markets. The regulation covers a wide range of products including timber, rubber, soy, palm oil, coffee, and beef.  As an official member of the EU Commission’s EUDR multi-stakeholder platform, FSC actively collaborated on this topic since its inception together with EU policymakers, NGOs, voluntary sustainability standards, and progressive companies.

The new regulation strengthens traceability requirements for companies to verify forest-based products throughout the supply chain. This corresponds with FSC’s work to leverage science and technology innovations to improve traceability within its system. Ongoing pilot projects include:

  • the FSC GIS Portal that tracks forest borders including Indigenous Peoples’ lands, protected lands, and territories with forest loss and gain;
  • WorldForestID to combat illegal logging by using science to determine the origin and species of a piece of wood;
  • the use of blockchain to improve FSC’s supply chain integrity through real time monitoring of transactions involving products with FSC claims/labels.

FSC welcomes the EUDR as a needed game-changer to protect forests and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. FSC is ready to work on its effective enforcement on the ground. To learn about FSC’s initial reaction to the EUDR, please visit this page.

FSC is a voluntary certification system that acts as an additional governing instrument for safe-guarding forest management practices and ensuring sustainability in supply chains. FSC complements the national and international policies and regulations for sustainable forest management in different countries. Multi-layered problems such as deforestation require a mix of approaches and the constructive collaboration of the various actors involved in this endeavour.  FSC will continue working with governments, NGOs, social groups, local communities, and businesses to address the roots of deforestation, and together provide pathways for positive change.