Blog Post

Environmental Building News Asked to Put Its FSC Label on Hold

EBN has long been printed on recycled paper, and for the last two-plus years, since January 2006, we have noted in our newsletter that our paper is certified 100% post-consumer recycled content according to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) (as seen in this image at the bottom of the page). We have often written about FSC, and have noted the program's commitment to environmental values and prescriptive standards. But we just learned that we've crossed a line – a line called Chain of Custody (COC) certification. Katie Miller at FSC–US recently sent me an email in which she noted the following:
I have to point out... that your claims on printing on FSC-certified paper (found on pages 1 and 2) are actually in violation of our trademark. In order to print those claims, it must be printed by a printer with chain of custody certification, and they have to print their COC number with it (this allows us to actually make sure it is FSC certified paper). You can find a list of qualified printers here: If your printer is not listed, you can ask them to get the COC certification by contacting one of our certifiers: But in the meantime, we'll have to task you to remove the FSC claim from all further issues.
We contacted our printer, Prospect Park Press in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire, to find out if they were aware of the COC requirement. For them, it would mean quarantining FSC-certified paper in their warehouse so that it is not mixed or diluted, and so that any paper printed with an FSC label is printed on the actual paper that has earned that label. They told us that in practice, that is pretty easy for them to accomplish that. With all the different kinds of paper out there, and the needs of different customers, any good printer keep close tabs on its paper. Prospect Park said that it had already been working on the paperwork and the $3,000–$4,000 certification fee. In the meantime, we'll take the FSC mention off of EBN, starting with our March issue, although the FSC-certified paper won't change. EBN and BuildingGreen's other publications, including GreenSpec, have been longtime advocates for truth in labeling and accuracy in environmental claims. We've called out manufacturers who we didn't think were labeling their products fairly, while also discussing the challenges that companies face in complying with proliferating environmental requirements. This experience reinforced for us that with the nitty-gritty of environmental standards, one missed detail can make for an inaccurate claim, even when you have good intentions. COC certification of FSC products goes far beyond paper, of course, as anyone pursuing LEED certification for a project can tell you. In LEED, a building can earn a point for using 50% FSC-certified wood under MR Credit 7, and potentially an additional point for 95% usage. To earn the point, a project has to submit a list of items claimed as FSC certified, along with the manufacturer or vendor's COC number, which USGBC can use to audit a project's compliance with the credit.

Published February 8, 2008

(2008, February 8). Environmental Building News Asked to Put Its FSC Label on Hold. Retrieved from

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