Illegal Logging

FSC / Jesús Antonio Moo Yam
FSC does not accept illegal logging or illegal timber trade in its system. Being involved in such activities can lead to the suspension and termination of certificates, and FSC may block such organizations from the system.
Illegal Logging
FSC / Jesús Antonio Moo Yam

FSC takes strong action to prevent such practices and materials from entering supply chains, and against certificate holders that do not conform with FSC’s rules to prevent illegal logging.

Fighting illegal logging

The FSC Policy for Association complements the stringent rules FSC already has in place against illegal timber. It strictly forbids organizations associated with FSC to get involved in unacceptable activities that would contradict the core values of FSC. In fact, the first unacceptable activity listed in the Policy for Association is ‘Illegal logging or the trade in illegal wood or forest products’. Violating this policy can result in the termination of all association with FSC.

Additionally, the first principle of FSC’s Principles and Criteria requires that businesses comply with all applicable national laws and regulations, along with international treaties.

Issues affecting the legality of wood

FSC regards legality as an essential step towards sustainable forest management, but not as a sufficient action. The level of enforcement of the regulations varies greatly from one country to another across the world.

Issues like corruption or weak state institutions and governance can for instance increase the risks of illegally harvested timber in countries where laws are not strictly followed.

By developing its own set of rules– the most stringent in this area - FSC has therefore turned its system into a reliable tool companies can use to demonstrate they meet the requirements of distinct legislations, sometimes going even beyond national regulations.

FSC has for example developed a number of national and regional forest management standards through inclusive and multi-stakeholder processes. These versions contribute to adapt FSC management standards to the specific local situation of each country and can include additional indicators to protect forests from illegal logging in countries where the national laws are less strict.

Mechanisms against illegal logging

FSC has developed various mechanisms to minimize the risks of illegally harvested timber.
Apart from its standards, these key measures include:

  • the use of virtual reality and geographic information systems (GIS): GIS is a computer system that analyzes and displays data related to locations on Earth's surface. It can help monitor and detect suspicious activities in forest areas, for instance to identify forests damaged by illegal mining activities. Virtual reality allows the auditors to see directly through high-resolution 360° images if certified forests are really managed based on the FSC requirements.
  • the use of new technologies to preserve the integrity of the FSC system: FSC is also pioneering new ways of verifying claims with the help of new technologies. It uses for instance the record-keeping technology Blockchain to make supply chains more transparent and trace materials at every step by registering transactions into this digital record book that cannot be changed.
  • monitoring the supply chains: robust investigations – led by the certification and accreditation bodies on behalf of FSC – help identify mismatches in traded volumes of specific products.
  • risk-based auditing: previously certification bodies carrying out annual controls of FSC-certified forests and companies focused on critical risks of forest management listed in each country profile. Since 2022, the auditors can also drill down to the company level to minimize the risk that a specific organization carries out unacceptable logging activities.

For more information, please read our position statement on Supply Chain Fraud.