Op-Ed

Focus on World's Uncertified Forests, Says SFI President

Your article “Behind the Logos: Understanding Green Product Certifications” [see

EBN

Vol. 17, No. 1] does a good job cataloguing the certifications available for green building. However, I would like to clarify a few points related to forest certification and specifically the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program.

In addition to the more than 143 million acres of forests certified under the SFI program in North America, SFI also has requirements for companies sourcing wood from uncertified lands to reach out and promote best management practices, awareness, and training. These SFI-certified companies therefore influence millions of additional acres through the training of loggers and foresters in best management practices and promotion of reforestation and conservation of critical wildlife habitat. The SFI standard has requirements relating to social issues, including indigenous peoples. The SFI standard is implemented only in North America, where the rule of law in areas such as worker and community rights is strong and well enforced. In addition, SFI companies are required to assess uncertified wood sourced outside North America to avoid illegal sources or sources from locations without effective laws.

Your article overstates the conclusions of the Yale report, which is based on only one Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard. There are more than 25 endorsed FSC standards worldwide with varying degrees of prescriptiveness. The Yale study is based on the very prescriptive FSC Pacific Coast standard, which represents approximately 2% of all FSC-certified lands in North America. SFI is hopeful that USGBC will recognize the fact that SFI is a single North American standard.

I was pleased with the article’s recognition of forest certification as “among the most visible single-attribute” programs available to green building. However, with only 10% of the world’s forests certified, I would encourage everybody to focus on the larger picture—the 90% that are not certified—and to reward and recognize the credible, third-party forest certification standards that do exist today, including FSC, SFI, and other standards endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) schemes.

Kathy Abusow

President and CEO Sustainable Forestry Initiative

Arlington, Virginia

Editors’ Response: Thank you for your letter, and we enthusiastically support your focus on the vast majority of the forests that are not certified. We disagree with your interpretation of the Yale study, however. The report’s comparative matrix includes the FSC Pacific Coast standard to exhibit a highly prescriptive approach. For the purpose of comparing programs, however, it defers to FSC’s national and international guidelines, which apply at least as broadly as SFI’s Objectives and Performance Measures.

Published March 1, 2008

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