With the forests of the world dwindling, an increasing number of consumers have become concerned about the source of their timber. Thousands of acres of forest are being destroyed every day through poor timber harvest practices and clear cutting, and this tragedy has been brought to the attention of consumers worldwide. In response to the desire for sustainably harvested timber, the Forest Stewardship Council, along with other organizations, has begun offering timber certification to assure consumers that wood has been harvested in an environmentally sound way.
Forest Stewardship Council certification began to be popularized in the early 21st century by partnerships with a number of major retail timber outlets in the United States, which began to respond to customer requests for healthier timber. Products labeled by the Forest Stewardship Council include paper, raw timber, and finished wood products, reflecting a wide range of certification options. Forest Stewardship Council certification includes inspection at every point of the supply line, and where certified timber is processed with uncertified timber, there must be measures in place to keep the two separate. A growing number of companies and timber producers work voluntarily with the Forest Stewardship Council to certify their products in the hopes of improving their market image and helping the environment.
The Forest Stewardship Council prides itself on providing certification that is transparent and independent. Anyone can inspect records kept by the Forest Stewardship Council or look at factories and production sites that have been certified. The council promotes sustainable harvest and responsible timber management so that trees will be left for future generations and the environment will not suffer as a result of the demonstrated human need for timber products.
The Forest Stewardship Council also works to promote healthy working conditions in the timber industry, encouraging worker education, access to health care, and the planting of trees and restoration of green space. In addition to forests, the Forest Stewardship Council evaluates mills, paper manufacturers, and producers of finished wood products. After satisfying the council's criteria, these companies are allowed to use Forest Stewardship Council labeling on their products, which allows consumers to make choices about the source of their forest products. While certified timber is marginally more expensive on the shelf, consumers have been shown to prefer it when given an option, indicating that humans are concerned about their effect on the environment. Choosing Forest Stewardship Council certified lumber is a healthy and sustainable decision, and one which is only going to become easier with widespread certification.