Certified wood is timber that is officially approved by a certification organization as coming from a responsibly managed forest anywhere in the world. The first organization that certified wood in the United States was the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which was formed in 1993 to further the cause of sustainable forestry. Since then, several other organizations that certify wood have appeared, such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. The Forest Stewardship Council's certification is still the most highly respected and it is recognized throughout the world.
To get its wood certified, a timber producer has to accept a visit from an official auditor. The Forest Stewardship Council partners with five auditing organizations inside the United States, including Bureau Veritas Certification and Scientific Certification Systems, Inc. During the audit, the company checks to make sure that the producer operates its business in accordance with stringent standards for forest stewardship, including giving strong attention to workers' rights, thoroughly understanding their environmental impact, and following well thought-out management practices.
All certified wood can feature a symbol that looks like a tree with a checkmark on the left side of it. This mark also has the words "Forest Stewardship Council Certified" on it to avoid any confusion. Companies that distribute this wood have permission from the council to use it in their branding and marketing, to help them increase sales. Many companies will go to great lengths to achieve FSC compliance, since it makes their products more appealing to eco-conscious business owners and consumers. In fact, there are companies, such as Ecotrust Canada, in the business of helping companies achieve this certification.
Finding certified wood is not difficult to do. There are almost 3,000 companies with chain of custody certificates in the United States alone, which means that they sell wood that is certified from the beginning of the process through the end. There are also over 30 million acres of certified forest in the US, so suppliers can basically pick and choose where to get their certified wood from.
The only limitation to obtaining this wood seems to be whether or not a company is willing to pay for it. As the demand for responsible forest management increases, the amount of certified wood available is certainly going to grow, and the FSC stamp of approval is sure to make its way further into mainstream society. Tax credits for green building may help speed up the process in the US.