Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) : Demonstrating sustainability of paper products

October 19, 2020

Eco-friendliness and sustainability are becoming more and more important today. How can you visibly demonstrate that a product is from sustainable sources?

What is “sustainability”?

Something can be called “sustainable” if it can be maintained at a certain level with no degradation for as long as wanted. In other words, “Something that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Let us take the example of farming – After crop is grown and harvested, one can grow a new crop again in same land next season. Compare this to cutting trees in a forest is not sustainable – one might cut down trees that have taken many decades and cannot be easily replaced. So farming is sustainable, while the other is not. Another example would be to compare Solar Energy vs. Fossil Fuels.

Paper – Sustainability

Most paper made today is from wood from sustainably grown plantations, and not from irresponsible de-forestation. Different areas planted at different times, and there is a harvest cycle of 3-4 years. At that time, trees are harvested for their fibre and new trees planted as replacement. A portion of fibre is also sourced from recycled content – both from wastage generated within paper mill, as well as from material collected back after market use. This second type is known as ‘post-consumer waste’ (PCW).

However, there is currently a misconception among the public that paper is not sustainable, and if paper is to be used, it is more eco-friendly to use recycled paper. It is important to know that trees used for making paper are grown as ‘crop’. Of course, it is important to check that this is done in eco-friendly way. Even in case of recycled paper – it is important to be sure that it is indeed recycled! So how does one go about this? The answer is products certified by a credible, independent organisation.

Forest product certification

There are many bodies that certify forest products (e.g. wood, fibre, paper, rubber, etc.) to come from responsible sources. The best known is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®). These bodies certify whether forests / plantations are being responsibly managed – which includes preserving biological diversity as well as benefiting the lives of local people and workers. They also certify whether forest-origin materials are recycled.

Apart from certifying the sources (forests/plantations), they also have a “Chain-of Custody” certification – which checks that FSC-certified material is tracked through-out the supply chain till it reaches the market. This allows the end-product to be certified – which gives the end-user buying / using a certified product assurance that the material used to make the product has come from sustainable / responsible sources. This means the entire supply chain needs to have FSC certification – from the plantation, to the pulp maker, to the paper mill, to the distributor, and finally - the printer.

What is a certified end-user product?

An end-user product (such as a book or a carton) being FSC-certified means that all forest-origin material used in making of that product is certified material only. One can find certified products not only in printed products, but also in furniture, rubber products, etc. which use raw material sourced from forests. Such certified products are usually identified by a logo printed / stamped on it.

FSC Certification Labels

  • FSC 100%
  • Products manufactured with 100 percent FSC-certified virgin fiber from FSC-certified forests
  • Products manufactured with a combination of FSC-certified virgin fiber (from FSC-certified forests), controlled sources and/or recycled wood or fiber
  • FSC Recycled
  • Products manufactured with 100 percent recycled fiber of which at least 85 percent is postconsumer (PCW) recycled material
A blackboard sign on a poleDescription automatically generated

When can a product be certified?

A product can be certified by FSC if all the forest-origin content is FSC certified. In the printing industry, this mainly refers to paper / board / binding board used in the making of the product. The printer needs to demonstrate through their purchase invoices that material used was FSC certified. This certified raw material also needs to be stored separately and used (to prevent mixed up with other material).

FSC as a differentiator

An FSC product allows you to demonstrate your concern for the environment. In fact, in many countries (mainly the Euro-zone), product certification is a must for packaging.

FSC products can only be supplied by certified who are audited annually to check to check that they’re following all norms and requirements – and that all purchases of certified raw material are made from certified vendors only.

Pragati was among the first FSC-CoC certified printers in India – having received certification in 2009. Both Pragati Offset, and Pragati Pack are FSC certified.

Pragati site certificates

What are the certified materials available readily?

FSC material is procured based on your need. Pragati maintains stocks of a few generally used papers and boards with FSC certification:

Packaging Board

Uncoated printing paper 

Specialty / Print-enhancement papers

Rigid board

Art paper

If you have a product that you will continue to print periodically, we can maintain the raw material in stock for you.

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