Monday, January 18, 2010

SFI has released an upgraded standard. Will it be enough to compete with FSC?

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is a forest certification program, which so far was considered by many not as credible or effective at conserving forest resources as the FSC certification. Now SFI has released a new and upgraded standard. Will it change anything? Will SFI become equal to FSC?

The SFI certification program was founded in 1995 by timber and paper companies as an alternative to FSC program, which was formed in 1993 by international environmental groups. On the SFI website you can read that the SFI® label is "a sign you are buying wood and paper products from a responsible source, backed by a rigorous, third-party certification audit." Others see it a bit differently, like ForestEthics, who argues that the SFI "promotes lax industry-manipulated standards".

A good place to learn more about the claims against the SFI is This site was launched by the Alliance for Credible Forest Certification, which is comprised of non-profit conservation organizations and others dedicated to credible certification and other market-based solutions for protecting and restoring forest ecosystems, including American Lands Alliance, Dogwood Alliance, ForestEthics, Greenpeace, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Council Maine, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club.

This website includes links to many comparisons between FSC and SFI. The conclusion of all of them is similar - SFI is not as credible as FSC. Here's one example from

In 2004, the Forests & European Union Resource Network (FERN) released “Footprints in the Forest: Current Practice and Future Challenges in Forest Certification.”2 The report examined eight certification systems from around the globe. While the report raised concerns with all the systems, FERN found the FSC “remains by far the most independent, rigorous and, therefore, credible certification system” and “only the FSC…deserves the confidence of consumers.” FERN found the SFI “[is] probably one of the least credible of all schemes researched” and fails to rely on performance based standards, consult with stakeholders, and use chain-of-custody product tracking.

And now what? Kathy Abusow of SFI updated that "You’ll see our new standard improves conservation of biodiversity, recognizes emerging issues such as climate change and bioenergy, and expands logger training in North America. It has made our fiber sourcing requirements stronger, and complements SFI activities aimed at avoiding controversial or illegal offshore fiber sources."

As reported on Environmental Leader, the standard also has 20 objectives, 39 performance measures and 114 indicators, which is up from 13 objectives, 34 performance measures, and 102 indicators in the previous version. To be certified, forest operations must be third-party audited by independent and accredited certification bodies, says SFI.

You can find a detailed summary of significant revisions in the SFI 2010-2014 Standard on this link.

Will these changes be satisfactory? We'll have to wait and see, but a good indication will be the decision of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), who is considering to revise its current practice not to give points for wood certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Currently the FSC is the only certification system whose wood qualifies for points under the LEED green construction system. If the USGBC will decide to approve SFI-certified wood as well, it will definitely give the revised SFI certification the Kosher stamp it is looking for.

More related stories:
ForestEthics is fighting the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification

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