The WWF report Responsible Sourcing of Forest Products: The Business Case for Retailers refers to FSC on various occasions. Its four case studies all introduce retailers who decided to use responsibly sourced FSC-certified materials – Bunnings, IKEA, Kingfisher, and Migros.

These companies highlight various benefits of FSC certification: for Migros, Switzerland’s largest general retailer, FSC certification “adds to the overall customer trust in the brand and company”, while Kingfisher refers to the “trust halo” it provides. Kingfisher, a UK home improvement company, also explains it “uses FSC as a means to save time on internal audits while achieving the same level of confidence in supply”.

One section of the report, ‘Turning challenges into opportunities’, shows how some companies have found solutions to overcome the challenges of responsible sourcing – such as the lack of products available, and the costs of implementation and certification. Regarding FSC certification, the section mentions how IKEA worked with WWF to support small-forest owners in China to overcome the cost barrier and become FSC certified.

Beyond the direct advantages of FSC certification, companies surveyed for the WWF report cited a number of global benefits of responsible sourcing. Over 80 per cent reported positive impacts on risk management and brand reputation; and over 60 per cent of retailers saw positive impacts on customer satisfaction and stakeholder engagement. More than 70 per cent of retailers claimed sustainability commitments had a positive impact on employee engagement, indicating potential gains from greater employee satisfaction and retention.

Although responsible sourcing itself has shown no direct impact on sales, this study and others have found that sales of certified products are increasing. In one survey of US home improvement retailers, 62 per cent of the 132 respondents identified increased sales of certified forest products over the past five years.

For Migros, which saw sales of FSC-certified products grow by 12.5 per cent over the past year, this increase in sales is largely driven by higher share of certified products in its product ranges, but evidence also points to increased customer preference for environmentally responsible products.

“Companies with genuinely responsible timber sourcing strategies – based on clear commitments and public reporting – have an opportunity to stand out from the crowd,” said Alistair Monument, WWF Forest Practice Lead. “This is particularly important for retailers, who operate in a highly competitive public-facing space where maintaining a competitive edge and a positive reputation is crucial.”

The report is part of a series of reports developed by WWF to research and understand the business case for responsible forest management and trade. In 2015, the first report on the economic impacts of FSC certification on forest operators already found that tropical and small or medium-sized producers, regardless of where they are geographically, can benefit significantly from obtaining FSC certification.

You can read the executive summary and the full report online.