Wednesday, September 16, 2009

ForestEthics is fighting the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification

Two weeks ago we reported here on a new report released by ForestEthics and Dogwood Alliance.

The report, entitled "
Green Grades 2009" looked at and grades the paper sourcing policies of 12 office retail, general retail and wholesale/distribution companies. The report didn't try to hide the authors opinion on the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) saying:

"Still, there is much work to be do
ne. Some of the companies do not have meaningful paper policies, are sourcing large amounts of paper from controversial sources, and are perpetuating the greenwashing of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and other industry-driven “certification” schemes. And since most companies still have at least some Endangered Forest fiber somewhere in their supply chain, consumers should buy Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and recycled content paper regardless of where they shop."

Now, according to the New York Times, ForestEthics is moving forward to challenge the credibility of the
S.F.I. certification in court.

a Navarro reports on the NYT ("Environmental Groups Spar Over Certifications of Wood and Paper Products") about the growing debate on the validity of the the SFI certification. According to the article, the accusations against the SFI certification program are of "lax standards and deceptive marketing intended to obscure the standards and the S.F.I.’s financial ties to the forest industry."

his move might be connected with the fact that the United States Green Building Council, which rates buildings as environmentally sustainable under its so-called LEED system, will begin accepting other types of certified wood next year, as it has proposed to do pending a vote by its membership. This move can harm the demand for FSC-certified products, as this certification is much tougher than the SFI certification.

he fact that the FSC certification has more rigorous standards is not accidental. The main claim against the SFI certification is that the forest industry created a green certification system to promote their sales, as Peter Goldman, director of the Washington Forest Law Center in Seattle, the legal firm that filed the complaints explains in the article. Therefore it makes sense it will be less demanding from the industry than the FSC certification, which is more independent (although we have to mention that it includes forest industry representatives on its board).

So who's right? the lawyers of ForestEthics who claim that the SFI certification S.F.I. has confused the marketplace or SFI whose spokesman said that the certification program was sound and that it had met all legal requirements as a nonprofit?

I have to say it's impossible to demand from consumers, as well as printers and publishers, to judge this dispute. What we can say for sure is that the fact that is indisputable is that FSC certification is considered as the best practice standard for forest management.
Therefore, I believe printers, publishers and customers shouldn't compromise on less than that no matter if it's lumber, furniture, or virgin paper they're considering buying.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: promoting sustainable reading!


calangute beach said...
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Forest Advocate said...

Raz says it’s "indisputable" that FSC is considered "the best". Wow! For sure? Fact? Indisputable? Perhaps Raz should broaden his research. Take a look at and you will that Raz’s claim is actually being disputed by many. And this kind of narrow-minded thinking can do damage to forest certification, including FSC: see Chapter 10 of the recent UN report Is the point here to protect forests or protect FSC market share?

Marshall Leslie said...

ForestEthics and two other NGOs have employed a tactic using legal challenges of SFI, the Canadian Standards Association certification system, and the Canada/US softwood agreement's side agreement on sustainable communities on 14 different occasions since the Spring of 2007. All of them have either failed or been abandoned. This is number 15 and it will fare no better. The SFI marque is considered equivalent to the FSC in every EU public wood procurement program. And the same is true in North America - except under the LEED building rating system. Unfortunately, the certified wood credit in LEED also requires more documentation than any other material, and there is scant supply. As a result FSC wood is ignored by design teams. The unforeseen consequence of this kind of squalid politics is that all types of wood are generally ignored in LEED certified buildings. The claim that FSC certification requirements somehow exceed the two leaders - SFI and the Canadian Standards Association - comes only from ENGOs who sit on the FSC board.

Anonymous said...

I think the best way to evaluate these programs is by what they practice as it is seen on the ground. Draw your own conclusions by looking at pictures and reading the article about forest destruction in Nova Scotia. It does not speak well for SFI nor Neenah, the American company that leases its lands to irresponsible whole-tree harvesters.