Feature Article

Certified Wood: How SFI Compares to FSC

FSC-certified wood is ingrained in rating systems like LEED, but rival SFI has a revised standard. Can it show it’s just as good on the issues that matter most?

Why do we need sustainable forestry certification? This aerial photo shows trees from a boreal forest felled to make way for a tar sands strip mine near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. BuildingGreen’s research has found that basic legal protections are not enough to keep wood from the worst sources out of our buildings. Programs like FSC and SFI are supposed to provide this assurance, although the details of the standards differ on key details.

Photo: Ashley Cooper
Unique boreal habitats in Alberta, razed to make way for strip-mining of tar sands. Mixed hardwood forests in West Virginia, bulldozed for mountaintop-removal coal mining. Illegal clearcuts in Oregon fragmenting old-growth habitat for endangered species.

Besides being destructive practices that happen regularly in what most would consider highly regulated countries, what do all these scenarios have in common? There is a market for the timber they generate.

Those trees will become a part of our paper products, sheet goods, dimensional lumber, and hardwood veneers, all without us having any clue where they came from. The planet’s attention span will be much longer: these scars on the Earth will persist indefinitely, robbing us of diversity of habitat, healthy ecological systems, and longer-term economic benefit.

Published March 3, 2015