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Public consultation open - is UK sourced wood low risk?

A public consultation is now open, running from 19 February to 20 April, on a revised controlled wood national risk assessment for the United Kingdom.

In Forest Matters January 2018 we told you that a public consultation on a revised controlled wood national risk assessment for the UK had been delayed by further work on our national forest stewardship standard. As you will read elsewhere in this issue, we are delighted to announce that our national standard has now been approved and published by FSC, and we are now able to move ahead with the planned consultation.

As a quick reminder, in addition to raw material from FSC-certified forests, products carrying the FSC Mix label may contain a proportion of reclaimed/recycled wood or material from other controlled sources. When considering these other controlled sources, i.e. wood which is neither from FSC-certified forests nor reclaimed/recycled, we need to be confident that any such wood originating in the UK is from acceptable sources.

The FSC controlled wood system is designed to ensure that there is a low risk of material from unacceptable sources being included in FSC-labelled products. The five controlled wood categories are:

1. Illegally harvested wood;
2. Wood harvested in violation of traditional and human rights;
3. Wood from forests in which high conservation values are threatened by management activities;
4. Wood from forests being converted to plantations or non-forest use; and
5. Wood from forests in which genetically modified trees are planted.

The rules governing the use of controlled material are set out in the FSC standard FSC-STD-40-005 V3-1 EN Requirements for Sourcing FSC Controlled Wood.

An important element of the FSC controlled wood system is the assessment of risk related to the origin of material for each controlled wood category. It is for this reason that FSC UK maintains a national risk assessment for the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The existing risk assessment concludes that there is a low risk of UK sourced wood coming from any of the five unacceptable sources listed above.

This risk assessment is now being revised in line with FSC-PRO-60-002 V3-0 EN The Development and Approval of FSC National Risk Assessments and FSC-PRO-60-002a V1-0 EN FSC National Risk Assessment Framework. In the FSC National Risk Assessment Framework you will find full details of the indicators and thresholds used to determine whether there is low or specified risk for each of the five controlled wood categories.

The draft risk assessment has been prepared by external consultants and a six member working group (with equal representation of economic, environmental and social interests), with FSC UK Forest Standards Manager Dr Owen Davies acting as Coordinator. It takes into account a broad range of evidence, but to ensure that the assessment is robust we are inviting your comments and further evidence. We have also made available the draft National High Conservation Value Framework for the UK, which is important to the interpretation of controlled wood category 3.

You can access the consultation documents via the FSC UK website. The public consultation will run from 19 February to 20 April, and during that time you can submit your comments directly to Owen, either by email ( or via the FSC UK postal address. Please be aware that all comments will be published in a consultation report unless you request confidentiality.

Once the public consultation is closed, feedback will be analysed and the draft risk assessment will be further revised if necessary. We expect to submit a final draft and consultation report to FSC International at the beginning of July, and anticipate formal approval of the risk assessment in September. If after that time you have any further comments or evidence in relation to the controlled wood risk assessment, do continue to send them to FSC UK; we will keep a record of stakeholder comments and review the document at least every five years.

Low risk, not no risk

As we mentioned in the January edition, the difference between FSC-certified wood and controlled wood is that FSC-certified wood has been independently confirmed to come from forests responsibly managed according to FSC’s standards, whereas controlled wood has been judged, on the basis of a risk assessment, to be at a low risk of coming from some particularly undesirable sources.

But note that the risk designations for the different controlled wood categories are low risk or specified risk, not no risk; we can manage risk through the controlled wood system, but we cannot eliminate it. The great benefit of FSC certification is the assured positive change it brings to forest management.

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