Forest certification program is logging industry greenwash: report

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'Headed in the right direction', SFI says

Elizabeth Woodworth of SFI says the organization's reach goes much further than its certification standards and is certainly headed in the right direction.

"It’s unfortunate that at a time when the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. is working hard with the broader conservation community to ensure the future of our forests, and does such fantastic things in support of this goal, that organizations such as Forest Ethics continue to do a disservice to all forest certification standards," she said told the Vancouver Observer.

"It’s easy to criticize and yet so hard to break new and positive ground.  SFI is on the right track and our actions speak stronger than the negative words of others."

Another concerning aspect for ForestEthics is that SFI excluded data from its public audit reports such as the total amount of hectares covered or number of auditing days it took. Also, none of SFI’s reports were peer reviewed. FSC did not exclude such data and had reports that were on average eight times as long as the SFI’s.

When ForestEthics members contacted SFI for missing or additional data, they said their requests for additional data came up empty. 

“The reason that they gave was ‘oh well, under the SFI rules we don’t have to provide that kind of information, so we’re not going to,’” said Ace. “That’s not transparent. That’s not accountable.”

The report also shows SFI lack of diversity in expertise. Its team rarely includes biologist and never features a clear First Nations or social aspects specialist, whereas FSC audits consisted of at least one biologist or First Nations or social aspects specialist, and one or more foresters.

But, SFI says it is governed by a three-chamber board of directors representing environmental, social and economic sectors equally.  

"The SFI community stands strong and includes all of those who utilize our standards, as well as researchers, labour organizations, First Nations and Tribes, conservation groups, government and land owners and land managers," according to Woodworth."SFI now represents approximately a 100 million hectares across Canada and the United States."

Graph from ForestEthics website (and report). 

SFI label widely used 

According to a recent survey by GfK, more than 25 per cent of consumers surveyed recognize the SFI label. In addition, almost 20 per cent of Fortune 100 companies used the SFI label in 2014, she added.

Ace says the company misleads those consumers by marketing and selling SFI products as green, and SFI also allows companies to continue industrial environmental destructive forestry,

"And we have a problem with that,” said Ace. “It’s the definition of ‘greenwash.’ It’s an industry creating its own watchdog. It’s ridiculous that we let the industry tell us they’re good for forestry when it’s just not true.”

SFI's website accuses ForestEthics of receiving money to undermine SFI to promote FSC, which Ace acknowledged was true. He said ForestEthics raises funds to protect forests, and that one aspect of this was to expose SFI's weak green standards. He said while FSC was imperfect, it was "the only credible forest certification" in the industry today.

“When it comes down to who gets affected by this, it’s not only the water quality or air quality, but what does it mean for the First Nations,” asked Ace. “The biggest victims are our ecosystems, the people who live there, and everyone who wants to know that the paper they buy isn’t destroying forests.”

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