Forest Stewardship Council Certification: Chain of Custody

Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) Chain of Custody (CoC) certification helps your customers choose products that contribute to global conservation, community well-being and economic stability. FSC CoC certification is available to all companies that process or sell forest products. Candidates include sawmills, secondary manufacturers, broker/distributors, wholesalers, retailers, printers and paper merchants.

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FSC CoC certification improves your business image by helping your customers choose products that contribute to global conservation, community well-being and economic stability.

CoC certification verifies company systems for tracking and handling materials used in FSC-certified forest products within the company's operations and ensures the credibility of FSC claims.

FSC CoC certification is available to all companies that process or sell forest products. Candidates include sawmills, secondary manufacturers, broker/distributors, wholesalers, retailers, printers and paper merchants.

In order for your clients to manufacture an FSC-certified product or for retailers to make an FSC claim about the products you sell to them, you must be FSC CoC certified. Certified companies also benefit from access to FSC web listings.

Multi-Site Certification

Multi-site certification is an option for companies that operate with several facilities to set up a "Central Office" and manage one certificate. For more information, see the FSC Chain of Custody Standard for Multiple Sites.

Group Certification

Group certification is an option for several independent, small operations to join together under a common association and designate a "Group Manager" to oversee one certificate. For more information, see the FSC Chain of Custody Standard for Multiple Sites.

Both group and multi-site CoC certification allow certification bodies to evaluate participating operations or sites based on audit sampling in recognition of common, centrally administered, and monitored control and reporting systems. This reduces direct auditing costs.

FSC Controlled Wood in a CoC Certificate

CoC certification with FSC Controlled Wood is required for FSC CoC certification applicants that need to control their non-FSC virgin inputs used in FSC-certified products, as well as to FSC-certified companies wishing to supply "FSC Controlled Wood" products to other FSC-certified companies within a supply chain developing FSC Mix products. Companies are evaluated and approved against the FSC Controlled Wood standard. These companies are issued a CW certificate registration code in addition to the CoC certificate code. However, the Controlled Wood code is only used when a company is approved to sell products with "FSC Controlled Wood" claims.

FSC Project Certification

FSC project certification is applicable to new building or renovation projects, or one-off production of a specific item. This type of certification verifies use of FSC-certified and/or post-consumer reclaimed input materials in the project, allowing the project manager or owner to make FSC promotional claims. For more information, see the project certification standard.

The Rainforest Alliance awards Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification based on audit results and issues certificates for five-year periods. The first audit, called the assessment, is the most rigorous, as it determines the initial decision to certify. The assessment is followed by four annual audits required to maintain certification.

The assessment for FSC Chain of-Custody (CoC) includes the following steps:

  1. The company fills out the Chain of Custody application.
  2. The Rainforest Alliance regional contact creates a budget (the application is not binding until the budget is approved by the candidate company).
  3. The Rainforest Alliance helps the company determine which certification strategy (certificate type, certificate scope) is the best approach.
  4. A service agreement is signed by the company and the Rainforest Alliance.
  5. The company prepares its systems and procedures to meet the FSC CoC requirements.
  6. A Rainforest Alliance auditor evaluates the company operations against the applicable FSC requirements.
  7. An assessment report is provided to the company for review and approval.
  8. A certification decision is made by the Rainforest Alliance.
  9. A certification agreement is signed by the company and the Rainforest Alliance and a certificate registration code is issued.
  10. The Rainforest Alliance conducts annual audits of the company operations to monitor compliance with the standards and maintain the certificate.

Please see Chain of Custody (CoC) Audit Process Description for a more detailed description of the process.

The certification process takes only a matter of weeks from the time of the on-site evaluation to the time you receive your certificate. Special arrangements can be made for specific timeframes if you need to get a certificate sooner because of customer demand. Please contact us with any questions you may have.

Jump to: Standards and Policies | Advice Notes and Guidance | FSC Trademarks

Standards and Policies

FSC Standard for Chain of Custody Certification:

- FSC-STD-40-004 V2-1
[En  Español]

- FSC-STD-40-004 V3-0
[En  Español]
The FSC CoC standard that applies to all company types including manufacturers, brokers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, printers, and paper merchants. This standard is required for all FSC CoC certificate holders including single, multi-site and group certificates, but does not include project certification (see below).
FSC Standard for Controlled Wood (CW):

- FSC-STD-40-005 V2-1
[En  Español]

- FSC-STD-40-005 V3-1
The FSC standard required for all certified companies that use non-FSC certified virgin materials in FSC product groups as well as companies wishing to sell "FSC Controlled Wood" products. The Controlled Wood standard supplements the FSC Chain of Custody Standard (40-004) above.
FSC Standard for Sourcing Reclaimed Materials: FSC-STD-40-007 V2-0 [En Español] The FSC standard required for all certified companies that source reclaimed materials for use in FSC product groups. This standard supplements the FSC Chain of Custody Standard (40-004) above.
FSC Standard for Product "Type" Classification: FSC-STD-40-004a V2-0 An FSC CoC supplementary standard that provides universal product classification terms and codes. This is necessary for certified companies to use for assigning a product "type" for each product sold with FSC claims, which is required in the company's 'FSC Product Group Schedule.'
FSC International Standard for Chain of Custody Certificate of Multiple Sites, FSC-STD-40-003 V2-1 EN FSC-STD-40-003 V2-1 is a complementary standard to the main FSC Standard for Chain of Custody certification (FSC-STD-40-004): The main COC Standard includes the requirements to be implemented by an Organization at the site level in order to qualify for Chain of Custody Certification. This standard includes the requirements on how several sites have to be organized and managed to be included in the scope of a COC certificate.
FSC Standard for Project Certification: FSC-STD-40-006 V1-0 Information for builders and project managers seeking one-off certification for a specific building project.

Advice Notes and Guidance

FSC Directive on FSC Chain of Custody Certification FSC-DIR-40-004 This FSC Directive provides formal interpretation on FSC CoC requirements per FSC-STD-40-004V2-0. Note: The FSC Directive replaces previous advice notes.
FSC Directive on FSC Controlled Wood FSC-DIR-40-005 This FSC Directive provides formal interpretation on FSC Controlled Wood requirements applicable to non-FSC, virgin inputs per FSC-STD-40-005V2-1. Note: The FSC Directive replaces previous advice notes.
Chain of Custody Audit Process Description This Rainforest Alliance guidance document explains the certification assessment process and what to expect for CoC initial assessments and annual audits.
Chain of Custody Certification Pre-requisites Checklist: CoC-47 May 08 An internal checklist available to certification applicants in order to understand what needs to be in place prior to being awarded an FSC Chain of Custody certificate. It is strongly recommended that these areas be addressed prior to a Rainforest Alliance assessment.

FSC Trademarks

Requirements for use of the FSC trademarks by Certificate holders: FSC-STD-50-001 V1-2 FSC standard that applies to all certificate holders that are eligible to use the FSC trademarks for on-product labeling and/or for promotional purposes. The labels and requirements represented in this standard are currently optional and required beginning the 1st of July, 2011.

How do I use the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Rainforest Alliance trademarks?

Prior to any use of the trademarks, companies must be FSC-certified and issued a certificate and license code. The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal may only be used in conjunction with the FSC label on FSC-certified forest products and/or with FSC promotional artwork on off-product materials. Please see the Requirements for Use of the FSC Trademarks Standard (FSC-STD-50-001) as well as the Rainforest Alliance Use of Seal Guidelines for rules governing their use. All clients must submit their proposed design for approval prior to trademark use. To generate an FSC label and/or submit artwork bearing the FSC logo and the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal, please visit our Submit a Trademark Request page. For additional information or to acquire a login, please contact the Rainforest Alliance representative for your geographic location.

How long does it take to get trademark approval?

Generally, it takes one business day, however the process can be shorter or longer, depending on the specific request.

What is FSC 100%?

The FSC 100% claim and FSC 100% label apply to products made exclusively from virgin materials originating in FSC-certified forests. (Previously, the FSC 100% claim was indicated by the designation “FSC Pure.”)

What is FSC Mix?

The FSC Mix claim and FSC Mix label apply to products made from FSC-certified inputs combined with Controlled Wood and/or reclaimed materials. Products sold with the FSC Mix label are required to include a percentage or credit designation such as "FSC Mix X%" or “FSC Mix Credit” on the invoice. Only under certain exceptional circumstances may the percentage/credit part of the claim be omitted when the product is sold to end-users.

What is FSC Recycled?

The FSC Recycled claim and FSC Recycled label apply to products made exclusively from reclaimed materials. FSC Recycled 100% and the corresponding FSC label are reserved for products containing 100 percent reclaimed inputs (which may be a combination of post- and pre-consumer materials). The Percentage System requires 85 percent post-consumer reclaimed inputs in order for a version of the FSC Recycled label to be used on-product. The Credit System is also an option as well using a combination of post- and pre-consumer inputs. Once virgin inputs are used, the product is no longer eligible to carry the FSC Recycled label, even if the inputs are FSC-certified and/or Controlled Wood (see FSC Mix option above).

Please see the FSC label matrix for example artwork.

Who needs Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain of Custody (CoC) certification?

Any operation taking legal ownership of FSC-certified products and processing, changing, trading, re-labeling or repackaging them. Typical operation types can be a primary manufacturer, secondary manufacturer, printer, merchant, distributor, broker or retailer. These operations are required to be FSC-certified to make any FSC claims, and therefore enable its customers to make an FSC product and or make an FSC claim about these products. To get FSC CoC certified, organizations must, at a minimum, conform to the FSC Chain of Custody Standard (FSC-STD-40-004 Version 2). For more information, see SmartWood Certification and Verification.

What do I need to have prepared for my site visit?

It depends on the complexity of the scope of your certificate. At a minimum you must have ready for the auditor to review:

  1. An up-to-date Chain of Custody (CoC) documented control system;
  2. An FSC product group list
  3. Training procedures and records of training; and
  4. Sample records for purchases, sales, inventory.

Companies signing a service agreement are provided with a log in for our client site, providing more tools and resources for preparing the items above.

Please see CoC Prerequisite Checklist .

If you need to meet the Controlled Wood standard you will also need specific controlled wood documented procedures and potentially a risk assessment.

Can my organization have more than one facility certified under a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certificate?

Yes. There are provisions in the FSC system for certifying multiple facilities managed by one company, as well as independent, small businesses joined together under a common association. This allows audit sampling of sites rather than every site being required to get audited. The organization can also add sites over time as market conditions or facility preparedness makes it feasible. The Central Managing Entity of the organization must have systems and staff in place to assure that all of the facilities are following appropriate tracking and handling procedures and that they are meeting the FSC CoC standards.


Companies that are interested in one certificate for multiple sites can check their eligibility via the FSC Chain of Custody Standard for Multiple Sites, or contact a regional Rainforest Alliance representative.

Are there any help tools or guidance on how to prepare for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification?

Yes. The Rainforest Alliance provides a number of tools that will help your staff identify the elements that may need to be addressed in complying with various requirements for FSC Chain of Custody (CoC) and Controlled Wood (CW). You must carefully review the standards and definitions to understand the tools. By only using the tools it is not a guarantee that your systems, records, tracking and handling procedures will be found in conformance with the standard. The tools are provided for illustration purposes. They are not required for use as a template. Additional tools are available to Rainforest Alliance clients.

If non- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) material is mixed with FSC-certified material, can it still be claimed as FSC-certified?

Yes, however the non-FSC material must be an eligible input for use in FSC products by either meeting the FSC Controlled Wood requirements for non-certified virgin inputs, or FSC reclaimed input requirements. Production of these "FSC Mix" products must meet the minimum requirements of either the "Percentage System" or "Credit System."

The Percentage System is a physical measurement of the proportion of FSC-certified/post-consumer reclaimed inputs to total inputs (including FSC, Controlled Wood, reclaimed) in a product. In order to label the product with the FSC Mix label, there must be at least 70 percent FSC-certified inputs used in the product.

The Credit System is a "bank" account that accumulates FSC credit based on the amount of FSC-certified/post-consumer reclaimed inputs used by the organization. The amount of products sold with FSC claims (on invoices and product labeling) cannot exceed the FSC credit balance.

In addition to the percentage and credit systems, there is also the "Transfer System." This is applicable for products that use only FSC-certified and/or post-consumer reclaimed inputs and carry forward the lowest FSC claim for the product group.

Additional resources are available to Rainforest Alliance clients.

What if my product is made from 100 percent reclaimed materials?

FSC definitions differentiate between post-consumer and pre-consumer reclaimed inputs. Post-consumer inputs carry the same value as FSC-certified inputs and therefore contribute to the percentage calculation under the Percentage System, or the FSC credit balance under the Credit System. When products meet a certain proportion of post-consumer versus pre-consumer inputs and the product is 100 percent reclaimed, the "FSC Recycled" claim and label are available. All reclaimed inputs are required to be verified against the FSC Standard for Sourcing Reclaimed Material (FSC-STD-40-007).

What is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Controlled Wood vs. controlled material?

FSC Controlled Wood has already been verified by an FSC-certified company as originating from a forest that avoids the five categories as defined above. Controlled material is a non-certified virgin input that an FSC-certified company will verify within its own verification program according to FSC-STD-40-005 to avoid the sources as defined above. See the risk assessment template.

Who needs to follow Controlled Wood (CW) requirements?

Any Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified company who wants to manufacture FSC-certified products using the Percentage or Credit system has to ensure that non-certified virgin material used for production is controlled according to the CW standard. Brokers/distributors within an FSC supply chain may also pursue CW in order to provide FSC Controlled Wood products to companies manufacturing FSC Mix products. See the FSC-STD-40-005V2 standard.

What does a company have to do in order for the material to be used as Controlled Wood?

There are two basic options:

  1. Purchase materials from FSC-certified suppliers which are already verified as FSC Controlled Wood. When FSC Controlled Wood materials are available in the market, this is the easiest option.
  2. Company can control the origin of the material through its own CW verification program, however this is more realistic to do for round wood traders and primary manufacturers than for companies further down the supply chain since it is required to obtain forest of origin documentation. To control the material, the following elements are required: the origin of the material has to be traceable back to the forest level by actual documentation; company shall conduct a risk assessment for each of the five unacceptable categories for each forest district of origin; company shall ensure the material is traceable within the supply chain. In case the risk cannot be confirmed as low, company is required to do field audits of the forest management units from where the material is sourced. Additional resources are available to Rainforest Alliance clients.

Do I need to perform a CW risk assessment?

If your organization is using non-FSC virgin materials that are not supplied as "FSC Controlled Wood" from an FSC-certified supplier, you must implement a verification program that includes a CW risk assessment.

To apply for Chain of Custody certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC):

  1. In Europe, Russia, Turkey and Israel, contact our partner NEPCon.
  2. In Brazil, contact our partner Imaflora.
  3. In North America, South America (except Brazil), Central America and the Caribbean, Africa and the Asia-Pacific, please complete the appropriate application form as follows:
    1. Chain of Custody Certification FSC [English | French | Spanish]
    2. Chain of Custody Certification FSC (only for printers and marketers of paper)
      [English | French | Spanish]
    3. Chain of Custody Certification FSC appendix for multiple sites or groups (complete application complements the chain of custody)
      [English | French | Spanish]
    4. FSC Chain of Custody Project Certification [English]

FSC-STD-40-004 V3-0 Client Tools & Templates

These client tools & templates provided by Rainforest Alliance are all generic examples of Chain of Custody documents. The companies presented in these samples are fictional and the information is provided merely as an example. These are a voluntary support tools that may be used as a basis for developing your own FSC CoC documents. Use of these templates do not guarantee conformity with FSC requirements.

FSC CoC Procedures Example (Printer – Transfer System) Generic example of Chain of Custody documented procedures. The example given is for a fictional company operating on the transfer system.
Product Group Schedule Example Includes three example product group lists for a fictional FSC CoC Certified Organization - a fictional printer, secondary manufacturer, and primary manufacturer.
Supplier List Example Generic example of a supplier list for a fictional FSC CoC Certified Organization.
Volume Summary Example Generic example of a volume summary for a fictional FSC CoC Certified Organization - one tab for an example printer, and another tab for an example secondary manufacturer.
Outsourcing Agreement Example An example outsourcing agreement template that is used for a non-certified organization by a fictional FSC CoC certified organization.

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