Sustainability of Paper — Here Today, Here Tomorrow
FSC works through independent certification organizations that it accredits to carry out assessments of forest management to determine if standards have been met. These organizations also verify that companies claiming to sell FSC-certified products have put systems in place to track their supply back to certified sources—which is COC certification. This method of operation is why many of the already certified printers promote themselves as certified under the SmartWood program of the Rainforest Alliance, one of the accredited certifiers.
COC certification is distinct from, but can dovetail with, a printer's efforts to achieve and maintain ISO 14001 certification. The latter is an international standard for a broader environmental management system. It addresses a larger scope of environmental practices, including reducing raw material usage, energy consumption and waste generation.
FSC activities are consistent with ISO protocols as they relate to the accreditation of auditors and the setting of standards, reports Michael P. Washburn, Ph.D. and vice president of forestry and marketing at the FSC-U.S. in Washington, DC. However, the process a printer must complete to achieve certification is entirely different, he says.
"FSC does not address environmental quality issues within the printing industry," Washburn points out. "We only address the forest management of sources from which the paper originates. Our chain-of-custody certification is designed to ensure solely that a printer claiming to be using FSC-certified papers actually is. The audit includes affirmation that inventory management systems are sufficient to identify 'certified' jobs as distinct from those being printed on non-certified papers."
In the case of printing, materials produced by a printer with current chain-of-custody certification and using FSC-certified papers can bear the official FSC tree logo to signal its commitment to being environmentally responsible.
The full process for obtaining COC certification starts with contracting for the services of an FSC-accredited certifier. A printer then must submit a completed application to that firm, detailing the steps it has taken to be compliant. Next, the certifier will send a qualified inspector to the site to verify that appropriate systems are in place to keep records of certified inventory and track it through production. If the site passes inspection, it is deemed certified, but is subject to annual on-site audits to maintain its certification.