Counting the cost of uncertified

A new environmental impact calculator has been developed by FSC Netherlands and global business consultancy EY (Ernst & Young) to help users evaluate the impacts of using FSC-certified versus non-certified timber.

The online FSC Impact Calculator ( requires users to key in a timber species name and the quantity used. It then calculates the value in €/m3 of net CO2 emissions and loss of biodiversity avoided if FSC-certified timber is used rather than non-certified, based on the eco-costs model developed at the Delft University of Technology.

Currently focused on 27 tropical species, the approach assumes that harvesting FSC-certified timber causes negligible biodiversity loss and also that the net emission of carbon is zero as the FSC certified forests’ ability to regenerate naturally is not compromised.  At the same time it assumes the worst case scenario that uncertified timber from unknown origin is replaced by agricultural crops, resulting in the loss of all previous biodiversity and release of all carbon stored in the original forest.  The end values expressed are the additional costs that would be incurred by society to maintain environmental impacts at a sustainable level if uncertified timber is used.

FSC Netherlands has used the calculator on real life hardwood applications. For instance, in a 547-property renovation project, the Ymere housing corporation used 365m3 of FSC-certified mahogany. This, according to the FSC tool, avoided environmental costs compared with using uncertified timber totalling €570,000.

The calculator also assessed that if a typical small cycle bridge being renovated in the Netherlands, averaging 2.5m3 of timber, used FSC azobe, the maximum environmental costs avoided would amount to €11,000 for each bridge.

“By showing the benefits of choosing FSC certified tropical wood, FSC can increase the market share of certified tropical wood while helping to reduce the negative impacts of non-certified wood,” said EY. “Using the tool for specific construction projects in the Netherlands has revealed that using FSC certified tropical hardwoods avoids natural capital depletion with a value of approximately 20% of the direct project costs.”

The tool additionally highlights the social value of using certified sustainable timber in terms of ensuring workers’ rights, social and health services and rights of indigenous peoples. It also stresses forests are home to 300 million people worldwide, while 1.6 billion depend on them forests for their livelihood.