Many printers are asking questions like,

  1. "Customers want the FSC logo or PEFC logo printed. How do I become FSC certified, get FSC certification or whatever is necessary?", or
  2. "If I use FSC paper, can I just make a statement like 'Printed on FSC paper' or copy and paste the FSC logo?"
  3. "If I were to get FSC accreditation, does that mean that I have to use the system every time I use FSC paper?"

Before we go any further, the answer to question 2 is a definite NO.

Strategic Safety Systems have helped over 40 printing companies, ranging form small to large, to become FSC and PEFC certified printers. This tells you about the steps in the process of becoming certified to enable you to print the FSC and/or PEFC logos.

What is FSC Chain of Custody Certification?

FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. There is also another acronym worth knowing and that is PEFC. This stands for the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes. Both standards do the same sort of thing, and I tend to regard them in the same way as VHS and BetaMax which are both, but different, video tape formats. FSC seem to have the brand-awareness in the UK, but on the Continent, it seems to be the other way round. Many companies gain certification against both standards to give them flexibility.

The FSC logo indicates that all the organisations in the chain of custody are certified by them and are using paper that comes from forests that the FSC have checked. Just because you use FSC paper, it doesn't mean that you have to use the logo. But if you use the logo, you must use FSC paper for that product and be certified yourself by the FSC and be following approved systems.
The FSC regard unauthorised use of their logo as breach of copyright and at likely to take legal action.
Note that you are not allowed to get round this by adding a statement like, “Printed on FSC material”.

FSC is a chain of custody system.  Every link in the chain must:

  1. Be able to know where the paper has come from.
  2. Be able to control that paper in his own workplace so that non-FSC paper cannot get introduced.
  3. Record paper in and out for those jobs where the FSC logo is printed.
  4. Provide correct documentation in the form of despatch notes and invoices so that the next link in the chain can fulfil their step [1].

Once you have got systems to ensure these and have implemented them, you need to be audited and certified by a certification body who have been accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Note that there is another system which is very similar to FSC.  This is PEFC which stands for Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes.  Many companies gain certification against both standards to give them flexibility.

So what FSC systems do I need?

Materials list

You will need a list of FSC papers and the certificates that go with these papers.  This list will be referred to by estimators, and possibly goods inwards personnel, and must include the certificate numbers.
I suggest that you create a table with columns headed supplier, paper name, certificate number, FSC content.
Note that you are allowed to use the FSC logo with paper containing less than 100% FSC paper, providing that your documentation covers this.  Therefore, it is essential to know the FSC content (ie % FSC) in the paper.


Make sure that the estimating system specifies that any requirement for FSC is reflected in the estimate.

Order receipt

There must be a system that ensures that the need for FSC is specified on the job bag and that FSC paper is specified on the order.  If your management information system allows it, you will need to specify the information for the despatch note and invoice.  (See “Despatch” for this information.)  If your management information system cannot do this, then you are going to have to devise some system that ensures that this is added before despatch.  One solution may be to have a large, red FSC stamp for the job bag so that this is immediately apparent to despatch personnel.  Note that if you get this wrong, then you have broken the chain and you cannot claim that the paper is FSC certified.  At worst, you will have to reprint the job.


The purchasing system must cope with the need to specify only that FSC paper from the materials list on those jobs where FSC paper is required.

Goods receipt.

When the paper is received, the system needs to specify that goods inwards personnel:

If there is a mismatch, then the system must cover how the paper is rejected and prevented from being used for the FSC job. Note that certificate numbers may be different. You may be buying paper from a merchant (who has his own certificate number) but the paper may be labelled with the mill’s certificate number.

Paper storage and use

Provided you have a robust paper labelling system, it should not be necessary to have a separate FSC paper storage area, though physical separation is a requirement of the PEFC standard.
Your printing system must specify the need for press minders to check that the paper supplied is that specified on the job bag; ideally, they should sign the job bag to this effect.  Once printed, it is not so critical keeping track of the paper as it is inherently identifiable. 
Beware of keeping track of part-used packs or pallets of FSC paper left over from an FSC job.  You need to identify these or decide to no longer claim that this is FSC paper.

Despatch and invoicing

It is essential that the despatch note and invoice specify the following:

Systems to make sure that it all happens

You need to introduce, implement and be able to prove that you are following these systems:


Should you outsource any operation on the product, even after it’s printed, you will need:

This may be regarded as being a silly requirement when it comes to printing, but it’s in the FSC standard so it must be followed.

FSC administration

This bit can end up being a bit of a headache!
You will need to track what paper you are using as an FSC credit.  Whilst your MIS system will do this for individual jobs, it is necessary to also keep a simple table of FSC jobs and the paper used and the claims made.
This may be in the form of a table or spreadsheet as follows:

Job No



Paper claim

Qty purchased

Qty output

Job claim

FSC Class



Bloggs shiny 80 gsm

FSC mixed sources

10000 SRA2


Mixed sources


The important things are that the output quantity cannot exceed the input quantity; it is normally less because of make-ready losses but you cannot use more than you bought.  Similarly, you can make a lesser claim for the job than that made for the paper, but not the other way round; you cannot claim that a job is FSC Pure when the paper it is printed on is not..
You will also need to tell the FSC certification body when you are using the FSC logo both
on-product and off-product.  For on-product, it is easiest if you define some product groups, eg A4 folder and stick with the same logo size, etc.
Finally, you need to be in control of your logo.  Unlike other wood products, where the label is stuck on at the end, in printing the logo is added upstream, normally by some other organisation.  I suggest that you have a set of FSC rules which you provide should you supply your logo outside your company.

Product groups and classes

This is another annoying requirement.  You have to create a log of your product groups and make this publicly available.  In the case of printers, we only have one product group “Printed Material”. To meet the requirements of the standard, I suggest that you have a statement on your website along the lines of “Certified for FSC products in the product group Printed Material.” Alternatively, if your reception area is publicly accessible, you could argue that having certificates displayed there is sufficient to meet the availability requirement.
FSC classes for products are:

Product Class



Books, brochures and leaflets




Pictures, postcards, advertising material


Registers, account books, notebooks, stationery

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Health & Safety, Environmental and QA Services and Systems


FSC and PEFC Certification
By Phil Chambers