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FSC, FPL partner to test environmental product claims

November 19, 2013

The agreement establishes a cooperative research program that uses forensic wood science to verify the accuracy of claims found on FSC-certified products.

A recently announced partnership between the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) uses forensic wood science to test the accuracy of environmental claims being made about forest products from around the world.

The landmark agreement establishes a cooperative research program in which forensic wood science is employed to investigate supply chain integrity, verify product claims, and identify opportunities to use the best available and emerging forensic wood science to verify the accuracy of claims found on FSC-certified products.

“This is a cutting-edge effort to further ensure FSC claims are accurate,” says Kim Carstensen, executive director of FSC. “Customers expect the FSC logo to mean responsible forest management, so we are thrilled to work with the Forest Products Lab in continuously enhancing the integrity of our system,” he added.

The partnership capitalizes on the forensic wood science expertise of the FPL to research and evaluate the efficacy of supply-chain controls and verify the botanical composition of FSC-certified products. The partnership also leverages FSC’s extensive network of certified forests, manufacturers, and partners to provide a full spectrum of certified products from around the world for testing. To ensure that products from anywhere in the world can be analyzed efficiently, FPL is supervising the operations and analyses the option of a satellite testing laboratory in the European Union.

Techniques of forensic wood science are employed in the laboratories for every product that is evaluated, and the partnership is exploring ways to bring forensic technologies out of the laboratory and directly to auditors working in the field.

“This partnership represents a unique opportunity to translate the scientific expertise of the FPL into applied forensic research on tangible, real-world problems on a rapid time scale. Feedback about the utility and efficiency of our methods is invaluable for directing future research into applied methods in forensic wood science,” says Alex Wiedenhoeft, the Research Botanist leading the FPL’s research program.

The partnership developed and employs a product-testing calculator to ensure that all types and sources of products are explored, while placing greater resources on evaluating potentially high-risk scenarios. With forensic wood science, two testing laboratories, active monitoring, and the world’s largest network of certified wood-based product suppliers, the partnership is poised to redefine the standard for due diligence in supply-chain monitoring and product claim verification. With the Lacey Act and EU Timber Regulations re-shaping expectations about due diligence, forensic testing offers new opportunities to ensure the accuracy of product claims being made by companies.