Which “chain of custody” certification to use?

Recently Brian Miller invited readers to participate in a webinar on FSC certification. Certification is just one of many steps toward achieving sustainability in the printing industry. With multiple certifications available, many clients have asked which certification to use and what is the difference?

Certification relates to the “chain of custody” and verifies that the paper we use is made from trees grown in a sustainable forest using responsible forestry management. The chain starts at the forest and continues through the mills, the distributors, and from us to our customers.

Printing Partners is tri-certified:

  • FSC (The Forestry Stewardship Council)
  • SFI (The Sustainable Forestry Initiative)
  • PEFC (The Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification)

With sustainability being our goal, any of the three certifications is valid. We recommend FSC certification because it is the most widely recognized and more products are available as FSC certified.

The Forestry Stewardship Council is a non-government organization that was founded by the timber industry, economists and human rights organizations. It has certified more than 113 million hectares of forest around the world.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative is a North American group founded by the timber industry’s trade association, the American Forest and Paper Association. SFI works toward the same goals as FSC, but through internal regulation. It has certified 135 million acres of forest in North America.

The Programme for Endorsement of Forestry Certifications is essentially the European equivalent of SFI. *

When clients use certified paper we encourage them to promote sustainability by printing the appropriate logo on their printed piece. The correct FSC logo to use is determined by the paper you use:

  • FSC Mixed Sources 1 indicates that paper is made from controlled sources and some (less than 30 percent) recycled content.
  • FSC Mixed Sources 2 indicates that paper comes from certified sources and that it contains recycled content of between 30 and 50 percent.
  • FSC Mixed Sources 3 indicates that paper comes from certified sources but contains no recycled content.

SFI uses a single logo and it indicates that the paper comes from certified sources. Similarly, PEFC uses a single logo to indicate that the paper meets PEFC standards for certification.

Certification is a way for us to communicate that we are using sustainable sources for our paper. The three certifying bodies work to assure that the trees used to make paper are replaced in an adequate manner making them a truly renewable resource.

* Editor’s Note:

We stand corrected! Our thanks to Chris Spitta for pointing out our error, that is what this blog is all about, the exchange of information.

Chris is correct in stating that PEFC is not the European equivalent to FSC. PEFC has the same goals, but works from a different premise than FSC. PEFC works internationally with other sustainability programs to bring everyone under one group, SFI is one such program that PEFC has certified.

“PEFC works throughout the entire forest supply chain to promote good practice in the forest and to ensure that timber and non-timber forest products are produced with respect for the highest ecological, social and ethical standards. Thanks to its eco-label, customers and consumers are able to identify products from sustainably managed forests.

PEFC is an umbrella organization. It works by endorsing national forest certification systems developed through multi-stakeholder processes and tailored to local priorities and conditions.” (from the PEFC website)

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One Response to Which “chain of custody” certification to use?

  1. Chris Spitta says:

    Just wanted to clarify something that is confused in this post, which I believe you might want to correct given that you guys are certified. PEFC is not the European equivalent to SFI. Rather, it is a global umbrella organization that endorses national certification standards. SFI is one of the national standards endorsed by PEFC, and SFI is also a member of PEFC.

    While SFI is the largest national certification standard, PEFC is the largest global certification system. Other North American forest certification standards endorsed by PEFC include ATFS and CSA.

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