Pesticides Policy

A pesticide is any substance, or mixture of substances of chemical or biological ingredients which aims to repel, destroy or control any pest, or regulate plant growth.

If a pesticide is toxic, it can impact the soil, water, atmosphere, and landscape of a forest. In addition, toxic pesticides can also have an impact on the health of workers, local communities as well as food and water.

What does the Pesticide Policy aim to achieve?

In the short-term, FSC aims to:

  • Eliminate the use of the most hazardous chemical pesticides;
  • Promote best practices to minimize associated risks to human health and the environment when using chemical pesticides; and
  • Reduce the overall volume and number of chemical pesticides in use.

In the long-term, FSC aims to eliminate the use of chemical pesticides in FSC-certified forests.

A revised FSC Pesticides Policy was recently published and became effective on August 1, 2019.

What has FSC changed in the revised policy?

Assessing risk of pesticide use
Previously, FSC’s Pesticides Policy used a ‘hazard approach’ which identified whether a pesticide should be prohibited and its toxicity.

The revised policy still includes a ‘hazard approach’ but now introduces a risk-based approach to identify whether a pesticide is toxic to the environment and humans in the local environment through Environmental and Social Risk Assessments.

It considers not only the hazard of the active ingredient, but also under what circumstances chemical pesticides are used (Risk = toxicity x exposure to humans and the environment).

There is no derogation process for the use of FSC prohibited highly hazardous pesticides. They cannot be used in FSC certified Management Units except in an emergency situation or by government order.

Highly restricted pesticides and restricted pesticides can only be used when, following an Environmental and Social Risk Assessment (ESRA), where the organization has identified and assessed the associated risks and is controlling risk through the implementation of mitigation measures.

How long do certificate holders have to implement the revised policy?

The policy became effective August 1, 2019. Previously, certificate holders previously had until August 1, 2020 to transition to full implementation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FSC has extended the transition period through December 31, 2020. Please refer to the Interpretation and Decision Tree for more information.

What's next?

FSC has formed a working group to develop international generic indicators (IGI) that will be incorporated into National Forest Stewardship Standards. To find more information on that process, please visit the IGI Implementation for the FSC Pesticides Policy process webpage.

Once the IGI are available, they will be incorporated into the FSC US Forest Management Standard, either as part of the ongoing revision process or through an alternative process. FSC US has developed national guidance ESRAs to support certificate holders with the ESRA requirements.

To stay up-to-date on communications from FSC US regarding the FSC Pesticides Policy, please join the FSC US Policy & Standards Forum. To join the Forum, please email