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Environmentally-friendly certification

by L.D.

There is some widespread concern among public opinion about the destruction of the planet's forest heritage and more and more people are looking for wood which comes from well managed and safeguarded forests. In the wake of this public feeling, various trademarks have been created for wood products, many of which are misleading.

A study carried out by the WWF showed for example, that of 80 different environmental friendly claims found on the labels of wood and paper products, three could only be partially verified and demonstrated to be authentic. In order to clarify the dispute over claims that , " no tree was cut to produce this notebook " or " for every tree cut in order to produce this article another two have been planted " and to create a credible and independent international guideline, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) since 1993 has been active in assuring consumers world-wide that the wood used in the manufacture of a particular product actually comes from forests that have been managed in compliance with environmentally friendly awareness.


FSC Certification has already had a remarkable following in some European countries (particularly in the North-West of Europe) and in North America. In the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany and lately Italy, traditionally sensitive to environmental issues, a group of buyers from the WWF was formed who have been engaged to purchase and sell products coming from certified forests based on the FSC system over the next 3 to 5 years.


The FSC is not directly involved in issuing the " certification ", but in defining its principles, criteria and procedures to certify the environmental factor in safeguarding forestry resources; through a program of voluntary approval from the certification agencies, it assures that on a local scale that these principles are respected and that the appraisals are carried out by internationally recognized agencies .

FSC approval is carried out in a series of phases, analogous to the approved certifying agencies that operate in other sectors and defined in the ISO centres: the agency issuing certification must guarantee independence, accountability and use the standards laid down by the FSC.

The principles and criteria of the FSC are interpreted and adapted on a local level by the certifying agency. An agency credited by the FSC can issue two types of certificate, firstly identifying who carries out the forest management certification and secondly a certification on the origin of the products (otherwise known as chain-of-custody).


In the first case the forest management is evaluated from its initial stage of forest planning, to the planting of tree seedlings (interventions that favour the renewal of the forest, thinnings, various types of treatments, natural phytosanitary defense against disease, etc.) to the actual cutting down. In the second case, the certification agency re-traces the origins the wood product during the various phases of its production, starting from the arrival of the log at the sawmill until it becomes a semi-finished product (furniture, components, fixtures, etc.) or the finished product itself (doors, furniture, flooring, etc.)

There is a distinction between forest management certification and chain-of-custody certification, even though both carry the same FSC trademark.

A final product which carries the FSC trademark must have originated from a forest managed in sustainable way i.e must carry an FSC certification. An eco-friendly trademark such as FSC's is a message that the consumer can easily perceive and can promote the product on the market.

In the case of a single forest, the forest organization can use the FSC trademark to promote its activities and organisation. In order to be able to use the trademark on a product (on-product use) or on the packaging of the product it is necessary that the organization have in its possession the relative certificate to the chain-of-custody.

The FSC certification and the use of its relative trademark is obviously of great importance as it integrates the entire chain of production. In Italy the cases of forest organizations are rare and do not go beyond forest management. Many are not in a position to re-trace the product from its arrival in the sawmill. As the FSC system has all this potential, it is necessary that public and private organisations and local industry collaborate together in order to optimise the use of the certified lumber if they wish to certify their own productive chain.

Further information can be obtained from web site of the Forest Stewardship Council: http://www.fscoax.org , from the ICILA, created by producers, traders and specific agencies of reference in the wood sector or from Club per il Legno Ecocertificato: http://www.clubecolegno.it and from the SGS web site: http://www.sgs.com

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