Is your residence hall furniture made from wood? And more specifically, do you have FSC certified furniture?
In addition to lasting longer than any other kind of residence hall furniture, wood gives you some extraordinary benefits.
With certain types of wood you can guarantee your furniture meets the highest social and environmental health standards. Not so with materials like rubberwood or laminate.
Of course this is important for the health of your students, but it’s also critical for the health of the biosphere.
Most students are idealistic. They want to know that their residence hall, and their school, promote sustainable and ethical values through their purchasing practices.
Students are also impressionable so modeling sustainable values through your choice of residence hall furniture can have a meaningful impact on the future.
So how can you actually trust that your furniture is ethical?
FSC Certified Wood Furniture
When it comes to green furniture, solid wood is by far the most sustainable. And when it comes to solid wood, there is only one undisputed gold-standard for certifying sustainable wood building materials.
It’s called the Chain-of-Custody FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certification. It’s more commonly referred to as FSC C-o-C or simply FSC.
In truth, there’s a spectrum of sustainability certification standards for wood, from the highest to the lowest. At the low end, with the weakest standards, you have timber-industry backed initiatives like the Malaysian Timber Council (MTC).
In the middle, you’ve got the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), which is also closely tied to the timber industry and has recently lost support from leading sustainability standard bearers.
In contrast, FSC certifying bodies have no ties to the timber industry. With the most objective and stringent sustainability standards, FSC is at the top of the ethical pyramid.
Why FSC is the Gold Standard for Sustainable Wood
So why is FSC certification important and what does it guarantee?
First, FSC certification ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.
Second, because FSC certification is so environmentally stringent, sustainability groups like WWF, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, and National Wildlife Federation all support it. It’s the only certification system that enjoys their endorsement.
Finally, FSC is a third-party certification body with no ties to the timber industry. So it’s green guarantee is free from bias and influence from vested interests.
The Difference Between FSC and SFI Certifications
It’s important to acknowledge that there are other timber certification schemes. However, none of them ensure the social and environmental standards guaranteed by FSC.
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is one such certification. And some companies in the residence hall furniture industry still use it.
But in truth, this certification is much less stringent than FSC, and there is increasing doubt about its sustainability credentials.
For good reason.
First, SFI has conflicts of interest. According to the GreenBiz website:
“The FSC was started in 1993 by environmentalists, while SFI was formed a year later by the North American forest products industry.”
Unlike FSC, the SFI grew out of the logging industry and still gets much of its money from the timber industry.
Although it’s seal is ubiquitous, the ‘environmental’ value of SFI’s certification is in question. According to GreenBiz, a number of environmentally forward thinking Fortune 500 companies—Office Depot, Aetna, Allstate, and Symantec—stopped using the seal because it’s certification no longer qualified as ‘green.’
And for those who are concerned about LEED building certification, there’s a lot of debate about whether SFI-certified wood should even qualify as a source for LEED points.
A host of environmental NGOs including the Sierra Club, the World Wildlife Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace openly opposed granting LEED certification points based on using SFI.
The Malaysian Timber Council
Another “green” certification used by some providers of residence hall furniture comes from the Malaysian Timber Council (MTC). MTC comes in at the lowest end of the certification spectrum.
MTC is used to certify rubberwood (Hevea brasiliensis), a solid hardwood and so-called ‘environmentally’ farmed timber which is harvested and milled in China and Southeast Asia.
It’s true that rubberwood is a farmed timber. However, a company that sells rubberwood created the ‘environmental’ moniker. And that amounts to greenwashing.
In terms of MTC’s credibility, Greenpeace publicly denounced the Malaysian Timber Council certification as fake. In fact, they went so far as to write a report about it calling the MTC “sustainable certification imposters.”
To be clear, MTC does not comply with FSC standards. According to Greenpeace, FSC officials ended their connection with MTC because they wouldn’t meet FSC standards.
Greenpeace considers other schemes such as PEFC (The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) and MTCS (Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme) as fake forest certification labels and systems. These schemes are controlled by and for the forestry industry and their loose rules do not provide any assurance in the ability of these schemes to halt natural forest conversion, biodiversity loss and the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights
FSC Is The Only Gold Standard
As we’ve explored, there are a number of forest certification programs in the marketplace. But FSC is the global gold standard when it comes to integrity in assessing sustainable and responsible forestry.
Many consider it the most coveted certification that an eco-friendly wood product can receive.
One reason for this privileged status is that the FSC certification received a singular endorsement in 2015 from the U.S. Environment Protection Agency. With this move, the EPA effectively drew a line in the sand, singling out FSC as the only acceptable certification standard.
In September 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued “Recommendations of Specifications, Standards and Ecolabels” to guide federal procurement. For lumber and wood, FSC is now the only EPA recommended standard.
What are some of the specifications of FSC certification? Specifically, FSC is the only forest management standard that guarantees the following:
- Prohibits the conversion of forests and other natural habitat.
- Balances social, environmental and industry interests.
- Prohibits the use of highly hazardous pesticides.
- Respects the rights of indigenous peoples.
- Prohibits the cultivation of genetically modified trees (GMOs).
The Only FSC-Certified Maker Of Residence Hall Furniture
In our research, we found that DCI is the only furniture manufacturing company in our industry providing residence hall furniture that offers FSC-certified productsas standard and at no upcharge to you.
It’s true that some companies can get you FSC-certified wood from third parties and then offer it to you at a premium price. But at DCI, our core value is sustainability and our baseline is FSC certification.
What does that mean and why should you care?
First, when you buy DCI furniture, your conscience can rest easy knowing that your residence hall furniture is created with the greenest manufacturing process in the industry.
In fact, our sustainable vertical integration process played a key role in our becoming a member of the SmartWood Program of the Rainforest Alliance and obtaining Chain-of-Custody FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certification.
A note of caution here. Unless a company can provide you with their FSC registration code, they aren’t certified. This is important, because a number of our competitors talk about FSC, but they don’t actually have this level of commitment to sustainable values. Our certificate registration code is SW-COC-001181.
FSC Chain-of-Custody certification traces the path of products from forests all the way through the supply chain.
And in the end, it gives you a guarantee that our lumber comes from certified forests with the highest level of social and environmental responsibility throughout our manufacturing process.
To set up an order today or to talk with one of our representatives, you can write to us here or call: (800) 552-8286.
You can also learn more about our industry-leading FSC CoC certification, our MAS certification, and our green materials sourcing, sustainable manufacturing, and our unique zero waste Vertical Integration Process (VIP).
Download the DCI Sustainability Pledge here.