In recent years, global demand for sustainable and responsibly sourced wood products has surged, fueled by increasing awareness of deforestation, climate change, and a growing desire among consumers to support ethical, conscious brands. To address this demand and demonstrate their commitment, major retailers such as Wayfair, Costco, H&M, The Home Depot, and Target have embraced third-party certifications in their supply chains. These certifications have become essential for suppliers wishing to access the expanding global market for responsibly sourced and sustainable goods.
Among these certifications, the forestry Chain of Custody (CoC) certifications, including those from Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®), SFI, and PEFC, have emerged as a key and recognizable option for suppliers of wood and paper products.
What is CoC Certification?
CoC certification, provided by accredited third-party certification bodies, ensures that wood and paper products meet strict responsible sourcing standards and ensures traceability throughout the supply chain. Product manufacturers, brokers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers can all participate by obtaining CoC certification. This certification signals their dedication to supporting responsible forestry management practices, biodiversity conservation, and the well-being of local communities.
Consumer Demand for Sustainable Products
Consumer research, such as the 2021 Global Sustainability Study, shows increased preference for more sustainable products. Consumers are also deeply troubled about climate change and deforestation. In another 2021 study conducted by GlobeScan for FSC, which surveyed 12,000 consumers in 15 countries, consumers listed climate change as their second-most important global concern, after disease and health. In addition, with respect to forests specifically, the participants identified the loss of plant and animal species, and the link between deforestation and climate change, as their top two concerns.
Clearly, many of today's consumers are more environmentally aware than ever before and prefer brands that align with their values. As a result, they seek products that have more accountability, transparency, and purpose. It is also worth noting that surveys consistently suggest that a large majority of consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that come from sustainable and ethically sourced materials, though in practice, this purchasing behavior is often contingent on other factors, such as the scale of mark-up and the product’s perceived competitive performance. As a result, large retailers recognize the importance of catering to these consumer preferences to maintain their competitive edge and brand loyalty.
The Pivotal Role of Retailers in Driving Sustainability
The largest retailers, responding to consumer demand, are beginning to require adoption of certifications such as CoC. This helps to create a brand halo for the retailers themselves, communicating their commitment to environmental and social responsibility and establishing themselves as leaders, while simultaneously giving a leg up to suppliers who can comply. Such mandates have a ripple effect through the entire supply chain and send a strong message that responsible practices are not only preferred, but necessary for doing business in today’s retail climate.
The retail landscape is ever-changing, with sustainability rapidly becoming a differentiating factor for success. Suppliers that fail to meet the evolving market demands for ethically and environmentally sourced goods may find themselves at a disadvantage. By keeping pace, suppliers avoid risks, reduce supply chain uncertainty, and increase investor confidence.
Benefits and Opportunities for Suppliers
While obtaining CoC certification may require an initial investment in time and resources in order to adhere to stringent sustainability criteria, the long-term benefits for suppliers are significant. Apart from gaining access to the growing market for sustainable products, certification enhances a supplier's reputation, strengthens relationships with conscious consumers, and attracts business from eco-minded distributors.
There are hidden benefits of certification, too. For example, regular document review and external scrutiny by a neutral third-party provides a clear roadmap for internal improvements in areas that might otherwise go unnoticed. Suppliers that undergo certification frequently note that the process helps them improve their practices, promoting better management of forest resources and responsible supply chain operations. This, in turn, positively impacts the environment and local communities while fostering a more resilient and robust supply chain.
The adoption of CoC certification by major suppliers and retailers is indicative of a broad shift toward more accountability for positive environmental and social impacts. As consumers continue to prioritize eco-friendly products, the demand for CoC-certified goods will continue to rise. According to FSC, there has been increased adoption of certification within key industries including textiles, packaging, natural rubber, and furniture. In addition, FSC-certified products are now accepted in Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly program, giving suppliers with FSC-certified products an additional advantage in the global marketplace.
Beginning the CoC Certification Process with SCS
As the focus on sustainability intensifies, FSC, SFI and PEFC CoC certifications will continue to play a decisive role in shaping the supply chains of major retailers and companies, and in driving positive change across industries. For suppliers, obtaining CoC certification is not only a means of meeting market demand but also an opportunity to enhance their reputation, attract eco-conscious customers, open new markets, and contribute to a greener future.
SCS offers many other certifications as well as CoC. As a wood products producer or trader, your company may be interested in pursuing more than just CoC certification. If you would like more information about the other certifications SCS offers, please download our corporate brochure.
To begin the chain of custody certification process, please contact [email protected].