Among green building issues, forest certification is one of the most complex, the most controversial, and the most exciting. It is
complex because multiple forest certification programs exist, with similarities and differences; almost as quickly as architects and specifiers can get a handle on the features of these programs, they change. It is
controversial because different players in the forest-certification and wood-certification movement come to the table from very different backgrounds and priorities; even while the least rigorous approaches are seen as too restrictive by one subset of landowners, the greenest of the forest-certification programs is being attacked by some environmentalists as a sellout to industrial forestry interests. Finally, forest certification today is
exciting because of the tremendous improvement in forest management that has already been achieved as a result of these various programs, and there is every indication that continued improvement will occur.
EBN last examined forest certification in detail in November 1997 (
Vol. 6, No. 10), and a great deal has happened in the ensuing five and a half years. In this article, we examine forest certification today, where it has come from, and where it might be heading. We compare the three leading North American forest certification systems, from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). We also touch on developments on other continents.