Major Corporations Drop Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Favor FSC

When we wrote about the spurious industry-funded forest certification, Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), recently, they  immediately fired back about how "diverse" they are. We simply compared them to the gold standard for well-managed forests, certification by Forest Stewardship Council.

Today we learned that Xerox, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Delta Dental, and Bigelow Tea are the latest companies to cut ties with SFI. 27 major US brands have severed ties, according to ForestEthics, which has been campaigning for years on the subject. They have done so because "the logging industry-run program misleads consumers and allows massive clearcuts, other destructive logging, and human rights abuse," says ForestEthics.

"Xerox is no longer directly involved in paper sales or distribution in North America and will work with our suppliers to avoid using or promoting the Sustainable Forestry Initiative certification program," says the company.

"Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is committed to sustainability and works with suppliers who commit to sourcing environmentally responsible paper and fiber that meet only the highest forest protection standards. For materials containing virgin fiber, Starwood prefers using and promoting content certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) and avoids using, promoting or referencing Sustainable Forestry Initiative."

Sustainable Forestry Initiative

Other companies that have shifted to FSC are:

Allied Electronics
Cricket Communications
Garnet Hill 
King Arthur Flour 
Norm Thompson Outfitters
Office Depot
Performance Bicycles
Phillips Van Heusen
Pitney Bowes
Ruby Tuesday
Southwest Airlines
Stash Tea
State Farm 
United Stationers
US Airways (now part of American Airlines)
US Bank

According to ForestEthics, SFI certifies irresponsible and even illegal logging practices that have a disastrous impact on North American forests:

  • Clearcuts: the average clearcut approved by SFI is the size of 90 football fields. The damage to forests, water quality, and wildlife are often permanent.
  • Toxics: SFI allows excessive spraying of toxic pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides that poison fresh water, wildlife, and surrounding communities.
  • Forest Destruction: SFI actually promotes its program to loggers by saying it doesn’t prohibit logging in old-growth forests or roadless wilderness areas.
  • Converts Forests to Plantations: SFI allows turning natural forest into ecologically barren industrial tree farms, including the use of genetically modified trees.
  • Violates Human Rights SFI labels can be applied to products made from forests cut without consultation of Indigenous People and in violation of legal and international human rights standards.

Only FSC-certified wood is allowed under LEED certification for buildings, and now the EPA has designated FSC as the certification system of choice for US government procurement, in "Recommendations of Specifications, Standards and Ecolabels."  

Read our article, Market for Sustainable Products Expanding Rapidly.

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Comments on “Major Corporations Drop Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Favor FSC”

  1. SFI Program

    We share ForestEthics underlying objective to save forests, but we disagree with their decision to target Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). SFI has a proven track record of helping to grow future forests through programs to sustain communities, fund conservation research, educate youth and work to continually improve and quantify conservation impacts. SFI, along with other certification and standards, plays an important role in forest protection. We need an all the above approach.

    ForestEthics is stringing together diverse and unrelated procurement preferences of various companies, and claiming that they reflect a decision not to use Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified product. That is not true. The overwhelming majority of organizations that ForestEthics names in their press releases continue to recognize the value of the SFI program and purchase paper certified to the SFI standard.

    The truth is that SFI certification continues to grow on all fronts because we play a key role in forest protection. With more than a quarter-billion acres/100 million hectares certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard, our rigorous certification requirements protect water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, species at risk, funding conservation research, and protecting Forests with Exceptional Conservation Value.

    Over the past 20 years, SFI has evolved into an internationally-endorsed forest certification program used by a diverse set of groups including conservation organizations, community groups, the public sector, universities, indigenous peoples, and many more. Almost 20% of Fortune 100 companies are already using the SFI on-product label. That gives SFI the necessary scale to directly influence the future of our forests.

    In a world where only ten percent of the forests are certified, we must work together to promote responsible forestry, because we all rely on healthy forests in our daily lives. We don’t want to silence our critics, but rather work in a meaningful way that makes SFI stronger and, in turn, ensures the long-term health and future of our forests, and the people that depend on them.

    – Jason Metnick, Senior Vice President, Customer Affairs

  2. Jim Ace, ForestEthics

    SFI has a proven track record of helping big logging companies mislead consumers about its forest destruction. Why? SFI is the logging industry’s marketing and public relations scheme. SFI was created by the logging itself to mislead consumers and customers. SFI is like the fox guarding the henhouse! SFI puts a green rubber stamp on forest destruction, water pollution, and harm to wildlife and local communities. The SFI is not independent – SFI was created by, and is currently controlled and funded by, the logging industry. This is made clear by the direct and indirect (mostly financial) relationships between industry and the SFI’s board. There is no way the SFI can credibly say that it is independent from the industry it supposed to be overseeing. SFI is an example of an industry certifying itself, a classic conflict of interests, and an example of the fox guarding the henhouse. It does not serve the public interest to have an industry telling consumers it is environmentally responsible. The SFI’s audits are bogus. The only ones that SFI makes available to the public are those that ostensibly showed no major problems. SFI wants us to believe that its audits have found major problems, but SFI has made a decision not to publish any report about these major problems. It’s pretty obvious SFI just wants us to take its word that its audits are rigorous—without giving us any evidence to back it up. Compared to other certification programs, SFI’s system for verifying and enforcing compliance with its standards is inadequate, which severely limits its effectiveness. The SFI is a weak standard – SFI-certifies irresponsible logging practices that have been associated with landslides, contamination of communities with toxic chemicals and harm to rare wildlife. SFI certifies as ‘sustainable’ logging operations that clearcut, log in endangered species habitats, aerial spray millions of acres of forests with chemicals, destroy salmon spawning sites, cause landslides, etc. Twenty of North America’s leading environmental groups, including NRDC, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and Center for Biological Diversity, have come to the same conclusion: SFI greenwashes business-as-usual forest destruction and has no environmental credibility. SFI is deceiving and can’t be trusted by consumers or companies that want to be a part of the solution.


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