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What is the difference between FSC® and PEFC?

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More and more people are conscious about the importance of a sustainable lifestyle. Short chain, buy locally, circular construction and sustainable shopping, it’s all part of the game.

This attitude change about sustainability plays also a big role in the timber and construction industry. Sustainable reclaimed wood is the only 100% renewable, bio-ecological building material. But how do you know for sure that the wood you're dealing with is sustainable? Easy, if the wood has an FSC® label or a PEFC quality mark, it's sustainable reclaimed wood. In this blog, we explain the difference between both certificates.

The similarities between FSC® and PEFC

#1 Certifiying organizations

FSC® and PEFC are two of the most known certificates in the timber industry. Both labels have the same purpose: ensuring a sustainable forest management and maintaining it.

Wood that has a FSC® or a PEFC certificate originates from sustainably managed forests where they apply selective logging and where they plant a new tree for every logged tree.⁠ Sustainable forest management at its best, where they keep in mind both the ecological, social and economic aspects.

The FSC® and PEFC certification doesn't only concern the forest owners, but also the companies in the commercial chain. Every PEFC and FSC® certified company receives a unique Chain of Custody number (COC), which allows to trace the certified products throughout the entire chain. In addition, all certified companies can be found in an international database, based on these exact COC numbers.

Only FSC® and PEFC certified companies can sell PEFC and FSC® products.

#2 At least 70% from certified woods

Both the FSC® and the PEFC adapt strict rules concerning the usage of their logo. The FSC® logo and the PEFC logo can be put on all certified products that consists of wood originating at least 70% from certified woods or 100% recycled materials. The FSC® standard has three different logos, whereas PEFC distinguishes two different logos.

#3 Responsible forest management

The FSC® and PEFC certificates ensure a sustainable forest management worldwide, which implies the protection of the natural habitat and the rights of the local population. On top of that, a well managed forest has less risk to be cut down for other purposes.

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The origin of the FSC® forest certificate

FSC® stands for Forest Stewardship Council. The international label has been founded in 1993, as a result of an United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro about sustainability and responsible forest management. This happened with the support of important environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature. Even if the first certified forest was situated in Europe, the FSC® focussed primarily on tropical forests during the first years.

PEFC certificate

In 1999, PEFC - Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification – was an answer to the FSC® certification system, since the FSC® was not a perfect match with the smaller private owners of European forests because of high certifications costs. Thanks to the PEFC label, smaller players can also profile their sustainable management. Since 2004, PEFC is active worldwide, including in tropical forests. The PEFC label is consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) from the United Nations.

The difference between the FSC® and PEFC label

Even though FSC® and PEFC have the same purpose, there still are some differences between both certificates.

#1 Certification

The FSC® label works with a subsidiary that decides who can certify and who not. This organization controles the certifying institution themselves.

PEFC realizes their certification based on the ISO-norms. They check existing certificates against sustainability and link their name to these certificates if they comply with the strict PEFC norms.

#2 Approach

The FSC® forest certificate works top down. They have their own FSC® standards and requirements which the forest owners have to match if they want their wood to receive the FSC® label. These are international standards that are the same in every country. In other words, FSC® works from forest to final consumer.

PEFC uses a bottom up approach. This implies that a forum, consisting of the concerned organizations per country, formulates their own standard. This means that PEFC is a national standard and works from final consumer to forest.

Currently there are over 400 million hectares of certified forests. This may appear much, but it's not even 10% of all forests worldwide, so there is still a lot of work to do. It doesn't matter if you choose wood with a PEFC label or a FSC® certificate, the intention is the same: you are making a responsible decision by choosing sustainable forest management.

Questions about our FSC® en PEFC certified wood?

Don't hesitate to contact us, we gladly provide you with our FSC® and PEFC certificates and other required information.