Responsible Packaging - a new, forest centric way to look at sustainable packaging

Renewable, Responsibly Sourced, Recycled. Each has a role to play in ensuring that paper-based packaging never comes at the expense of forests.

Responsible Packaging - a new, forest centric way to look at sustainable packaging


Renewable, Responsibly Sourced, Recycled. Each has a role to play in ensuring that paper-based packaging never comes at the expense of forests.

The Three Rs

PEFC’s approach to “Responsible Packaging” brings together the three Rs as part of a holistic sustainability solution that centres on forests.

In the past, consumers and brand owners alike have often not thought beyond recycling, but no fibre in the world can be recycled indefinitely.

It’s time to broaden our approach, by not just minimizing harm but by actively promoting the protection of our forests through certification.

Responsible Packaging must be renewable. When the PEFC logo appears on packaging, it provides assurance that the packaging is certified and that the virgin fibres it was made from were sourced from certified, sustainably managed forests. 

To obtain that certification, foresters must prove that they are harvesting wood in a way and at a rate that does not damage forest ecology. Foresters also need to identify and protect vulnerable species and ecosystems as well as actively replanting the forest or allowing it enough time to regenerate naturally. 

This maintains the forest as a home for plants and animals, a source of income and employment for those who rely on the forest for their livelihoods, and are in the front line against climate change. And that makes the virgin fibres extracted from that healthy forest a truly renewable resource. 

Responsible Packaging is about more than how the forest is treated - to be truly sustainable, the people who produce it must also be treated fairly. That’s why Responsible Packaging must also be sourced responsibly. This means safe working conditions and fair labour practices throughout the entire chain of custody. In fact, PEFC is the first global sustainable forest management standard that specifically requires respect for human rights as defined by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. 

Responsibly sourced packaging also means transparent and verifiable. To obtain PEFC certification, every actor in the supply chain must operate transparently, and prove the traceability of their sustainably sourced materials via chain of custody certification. This means that we never simply take a company’s word for it when making assertions about labour practices, or the source of certified wood fibres. This is what enables brand owners that use PEFC certified packaging to make accurate and verifiable claims about the sustainability of their packaging.

While recycling isn’t a complete solution to sustainability, it remains an essential part of any sustainability strategy and is a key component of PEFC’s approach to Responsible Packaging. 

The demand for forest and tree-based products continues to increase, and while wood fibre is the ultimate renewable packaging material, the use of recycled materials helps to optimize the raw materials sourcing and to move towards circularity. 

When used together with PEFC certified virgin fibres, PEFC certified recycled materials help meet market demand for forest products in a way that still protects forests. Fortunately, paper packaging materials are the easiest and most efficient materials in the world to recycle, so wherever they can be recycled, it is important that they are.

What can suppliers do?

If you are a manufacturer or supplier of paper-based packaging products, PEFC is here to help you make that packaging more responsible.

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Certification is the foundation of responsible sourcing, and PEFC can help connect you with suppliers of certified raw materials, as well as help you get certified

Wherever you are, we can provide support in your local language, and certification requirements consistent with local laws and regulations, making PEFC certification both transparent and achievable. Most importantly, with certification increasingly the global norm, obtaining it is your best way to ensure uninterrupted market access.

Reach out to us today to start your certification journey. Demonstrate your best practices in responsible sourcing and meet the increasing expectations from your buyers. Find the PEFC contact in your country

How can retailers & brand owners adopt Responsible Packaging?

Much like packaging manufacturers, brands owners and other packaging end-users also face a need to demonstrate their responsible sourcing to their buyers.

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The first step is to include PEFC in your sourcing policy. By asking your suppliers to use PEFC certified materials you are helping to drive the sustainably change throughout the whole supply chain. 

Once your packaging products are being manufactured with PEFC-certified materials you are able to use the PEFC logo on the packaging. Using the PEFC label on your certified packaging demonstrates your brand is sourcing responsibly and is a significant contribution to your brand’s sustainability strategy. That label demonstrates your company’s commitment to responsible sourcing in a way that is visible, verifiable and readily understood. 

PEFC makes this process easy, and no end-user is ever forced to choose between sourcing policies from PEFC and other certification systems. In fact, inclusive procurement policies give you more supply flexibility and a greater chance of reaching your certified source target.

Find certified suppliers

If your brand or company uses paper-based packaging, find certified suppliers and reach out to us to learn more about what you need to include PEFC certified packaging in your procurement plan.

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