How to check if an unlabelled product is FSC certified?

You will probably be familiar with the distinctive and recognisable FSC® logo which adorns a range of forest-based products from printer paper to decking or latex. It provides us with the assurance that we are buying a wood-based product that has been sourced from a sustainable forest. However, what do you do if a product does not have the logo on it? Is it still FSC® certified or is it from a non-certified or perhaps even illegal source? The product may in fact still be certified by the FSC, but there are a few steps you can take to ensure it is.
STEP 1:  Find the Certificate Number

All certified suppliers are provided with a certificate number which is unique to them. This is so their products can be easily traced back to them. They should provide you with this certification number on their delivery note or invoice. In order for you to understand what the certification number looks like, it usually comes in the following formats:

The certificate number highlights the Chain of Custody, a documentation trail that follows all the steps throughout the supply chain and means there is a traceable official record.

The beginning part of the code refers to which certification body has been used to audit the supplier and the numbers are unique identifiers which can reach up to 6 digits. The middle section refers to the type of certification and there are two main types:
• COC – Chain of Custody
• FM – Forest Management
Although these are less common, the FSC also offer the following types for certification:
• Controlled Wood
• Project Certification
• Multi-site Chain of Custody
STEP 2: Check the certificate on the invoice is authentic 
It is not enough to just be assured by the supplier that they are certified, even if they provide you with an authentic-looking certificate number. You should really double-check that the certificate does in fact exist. You can easily do this by checking online at
Is the certificate authentic? 
Yes – Move onto STEP 3.
No – This does not immediately mean the product is not FSC® certified. Ring the supplier and double-check their information first.
STEP 3: Check the certificate number on the invoice matches the information on the database. This includes the name of your supplier and address.
Does the information match?
Yes: Move onto STEP 4.
No: it is possible that the certificate number is of your supplier’s supplier. If your own supplier’s name can’t be found on the database they are not certified and therefore neither is the product. Do not accept the product as certified. However, you can mention to your supplier that it is really easy to get a COC certificate, they just need to contact one of the many certification bodies.
STEP 4: Check the certificate is valid. 
You need to check the certificate is actually valid as sometimes they are suspended or are only valid for a year. This information is also on the database, next to the certificate holder.
Is the certificate valid?
Yes – Move onto STEP 5.
No – Do not accept the product as the certificate needs to be valid.
STEP 5: Does the certificate actually cover the product you are planning on buying?
When a supplier is certified, it does not mean that all their products are automatically included within this certification. It only applies to certain product lines that they manufacture.
Is the product included in the certification?
Yes – You can go ahead and purchase the product, confident in the knowledge that it has come from a FSC® source.
No – Do not accept the product as it is not covered by the FSC® certification.
Why is it important to have a FSC® certified product?
The certification process carried out by the FSC® provides confidence to buyers that they are purchasing wood-based items from a sustainable source. However, there are other certification programmes out there which are also widely recognised including PEFC certification. Although FSC® is the only certification acknowledged by major players such as the WWF and the Woodland Trust, the PEFC certification still guarantees you that the product has come from a forest that has been well managed.
Although being FSC® certified is not a legal requirement, a lot of businesses aim for this certification because people prefer products that are sustainable and have come from responsible forestry practices that have been independently audited. The certification involves some strict criteria but provides peace of mind.
How do suppliers get certified?
In order to receive certification, a supplier must prove its products come from FSC forests where auditors check for socially beneficial, financially viable and environmentally appropriate practices. They should ensure the local community benefits from the commercial operation’s  presence in the forest, the company is profitable whilst still being responsible at managing the forest and ensuring the biodiversity is not harmed in the farming process.
The first step is to contact a FSC® accredited certification body as they will need some basic information about the business and will then provide the appropriate FSC® requirements. After this, suppliers will need to submit an application and undertake an audit. If this audit is passed, a FSC® certification code will be assigned.
Have a look for the FSC® number next time you are purchasing timber, toilet paper or any other wood products.  As with the organic food movement, it is not a legal requirement, however, it is universally beneficial. If you find a FSC® number, you will know the product is sourced from responsibly managed forest and means we can continue using wood to create amazing things, without having to sacrifice our forests.
Who are EcoChoice?
EcoChoice are specialist suppliers of certified timber and recycled plastic products for exterior works: from cladding and decking to piers and footbridges. We were formed in 2005 with the aim of promoting FSC® certified timbers to the UK construction industry, helping customers to engage in a sustainable way instead of turning away from both the deforestation and plastic waste problems. We offer products from a wide range of timber species.
We are passionate about supplying our clients with independently certified timber products while encouraging responsible and sustainable practices at the source level. To find out how we can help you get a quick, no-obligation quote, please call us on 0345 638 1340, email us on or for more information about our sustainable timber products, please visit our website,

Tags: ,


How can we help?