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Specifying FSC-certified wood

Original Publication: Retail Environments

Sustainably harvested wood is in growing demand. In fact, wood certified through the Forest Stewardship Council is the most specified green building product in McGraw-Hill’s database of 60,000 project specifications. FSC-certified wood can bring warmth to a retail space while contributing to green building goals. It also contributes to LEED credits.  

What is FSC certification?

Established to address concerns over global deforestation, the FSC is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests through a voluntary certification program. FSC-accredited third-party certification bodies evaluate forests against the FSC Forest Management standards to determine whether they are being responsibly managed and meet the program’s stringent environmental, social, and economic criteria.

In addition, companies selling wood and paper products derived from certified forests or reclaimed wood sources can be certified under the FSC Chain-of-Custody (CoC) standard. Once materials leave the FSC-certified forest, CoC certification traces the materials as they move through the supply chain, before reaching customers as finished products. Companies at each stage of manufacturing and distribution, such as sawmills and brokers, must be certified in order to pass along an FSC claim. Any qualified wood or fiber products, including building materials, solid wood, and assembled products such as furniture and casework, can carry the FSC claim and/or label.

As awareness of and interest in FSC certification grows, so too does the number of certified materials and products coming onto the market. This growth is driven by responsible procurement programs, ethical consumerism, the need to mitigate risks associated with illegal harvesting, and green building rating programs such as the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) initiative. FSC is the only forest product certification standard recognized under LEED.

How does it fit into LEED?

In order to count toward LEED credits, FSC-certified products must comply with CoC requirements and be entirely composed of eligible inputs, which include FSC-certified material, FSC “Controlled Wood” (a designation for wood not certified by FSC, but vetted to exclude controversial sources), and FSC-certified pre- and post-consumer reclaimed material.

Historically, under LEED 2009, certified wood applied to Credit 7 in the Materials and Resources category (MRc7) for the New Construction and Major Renovations standard. Certified wood was eligible for one point if at least 50% of permanently installed wood products were FSC CoC certified, and two points if at least 95% was certified. Now, under LEED v4, certified wood applies to the “Building Product Disclosure & Optimization: Sourcing of Raw Materials” credit in the Materials and Resources category (MRc3), in the standard for Building Design + Construction. One point can be achieved if at least 25% of the permanently installed building materials, including veneer wall coverings and ceilings, meet “leadership extraction practices,” and FSC-certified products are one way to reach that goal. Locally sourced products—those, including FSC-certified products, made from raw materials that originated and were processed within 100 miles of the project site—are valued at double their cost.

LEED for Retail has been updated under LEED v4 to include rating systems for different building and renovation types. It now applies to the following project types: Building Design + Construction, Interior Design + Construction, and Building Operations + Maintenance. Sourcing FSC-certified wood for any of these types of retail projects contributes to LEED credits.

Documenting the use of FSC-certified products

To ensure that FSC-certified materials contribute towards LEED credit achievement, proper documentation is required.  Project managers should first check the FSC Certificate Database,, to verify that suppliers are in fact FSC certified. In general, companies selling FSC products into a LEED project must follow the guidelines for FSC invoicing. This means that on each invoice submitted for credit for using FSC materials in a LEED project, the certified company’s CoC code, the FSC claim(s) (such as FSC Mix Credit or FSC Mix 70%), and the description and dollar value of each item must be included.

FSC also offers a map-based directory,, to connect store planners and contractors to suppliers, buyers, and traders. This directory contains information on all certified companies, from timber merchants and brokers to manufacturers, furniture producers, and logging companies. FSC products such as siding, trim, and cabinets also can be located by submitting a request using the FSC U.S. Product Inquiry Form at, or through U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Building Information Gateway at

Connie Chan, [email protected], is sales and marketing coordinator of the Natural Resources Division for SCS Global Services. SCS is a third-party provider of certification services worldwide under the FSC scheme and a wide variety of other green building and sustainability programs. FSC license code FSC-A000521.

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Linda Brown

Linda Brown

Senior Vice President