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FSC's vision for responsible forestry

The international Principles and Criteria lie at the centre of FSC’s vision for responsible forest management and drive the FSC approach globally. They are the commitment asked of each FSC Forest Management certificate holder, aligning them with a wider network of people and organisations focused on Forests for All, Forever. Created and agreed upon by our members through FSC’s chamber-balanced democratic processes, the Principles and Criteria are representative of the future they want to see for forests: management that is focused on sustainable use, conservation and respect for all. 

The 10 Principles and 70 Criteria are the foundation of the FSC certification scheme, underpinning the development of all of our national and regional standards. Broad in scope, they touch on environmental, social and economic dimensions of responsible forest management and are applicable across all types of forests, spatial scales and geographic contexts. There is no hierarchy between the Principles or between Criteria, they share equal status, validity and authority. Thus, they are transferable and flexible depending on the context, yet robust, providing a consistent baseline for nationally or regionally adapted standards.

To fit the UK context, the Principles and Criteria are supplemented by indicators in the National Forest Stewardship Standard, familiar to most forest managers as the UK Woodland Assurance Standard, or UKWAS. The resulting standard defines what any UK forest operation must do in order to gain FSC certification, guiding forest management decisions to meet the careful balance required to uphold responsible forestry practices. 

As we enter a new decade with increased focus on the role of forests in mitigating the climate crisis, the FSC framework offers an opportunity for certified forests to make a positive contribution to maintaining and enhancing forest conditions and avoiding deforestation.

What are the Principles and Criteria?

The Principles can be summarised as: 

  • 1: Compliance with Laws
  • 2: Workers’ Rights and Employment Conditions
  • 3: Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (not applicable in the UK)
  • 4: Community Relations
  • 5: Benefits from the Forest
  • 6: Environmental Values and Impacts
  • 7: Management Planning
  • 8: Monitoring and Assessment
  • 9: High Conservation Values
  • 10: Implementation of Management Activities

What do the Principles and Criteria actually say?

You may already be very familiar with them, or you may be less aware of what they include. Our upcoming series of articles will provide you with insight into the background and role of each of the Principles. We plan to take a deep dive into each Principle and the associated Criteria to explore their significance in the UK context and explore what opportunities each can offer to drive change. 

Importantly, we want to hear from our Forest Management certificate holders what the Principles mean to them in their operations and how they influence their approach. If you would like to share you stories, please get in touch with Amy Willox, our Forestry Outreach Manager.

Look out for articles in each Forest Matters to learn more about each Principle. 

Principles are defined as:

‘the essential rules of environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable forest management’, while the Criteria under each of these provide ‘the means of judging whether or not a Principle has been fulfilled’.

© Forest Stewardship Council® · FSC® F000231