Buildup To Greenbuild: The War In The Woods Heats Up

Last year at Greenbuild, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) made a big splash, having just come off a big victory at the US Green Building Council, where they maintained their status as the only wood that gets a point under LEED. They built a gorgeous booth while the other big certifier, theSustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) , sort of slunk in.

This year, as we build up to Greenbuild, Forest Ethics has mounted a big campaign to expose SFI as "the timber industry's favored instrument for greenwashing the products of status quo forest destruction."

The stakes are very, very high; LEED is a very big part of the building industry, having just certified its 10,000th project. The big lumber companies want a piece of that.
SFI Certified: Clearcuts in Oregon

More SFI-approved logging in Western Oregon. In October, SFI board president Marvin Brown resigned his position as Oregon state forester following a controversial tenure in which his department was accused of conducting and tolerating environmentally-harmful forestry practices, including violations of the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy of Francis Eatherington

This year, I expect SFI will be back with a bit of a splash; they got their foot in the door of LEED this year with a new pilot credit that was designed to encourage the use of building products that have had their environmental claims verified by a third party. This was seen by many as a good thing; as a director of LEED explained to BuildingGreen, " "This credit is about identifying certification types, nothing about our preferences about them." But others disagreed, suggesting that it has opened the door to lousy certifications.

These issues are fought out on the floor and in the boardrooms at Greenbuild, so it is not surprising that Forest Ethics is rolling out the big guns now. Included in their campaign:

1. A demand that SFI take five steps away from greenwash. (PDF Here)

In a letter to Kathy Abusow, President of SFI, 21 conservation organizations complained about SFI's funding, among other things:

Despite repeated requests made by several signatories of this letter, SFI refuses to reveal in detail the sources of its funding. It has been claimed that all or nearly all of SFI's funding comes from the logging and land-holding industries. Based on your refusal to be transparent about this issue, we can only conclude that all or nearly all of your funding is in fact from the same forest products industry SFI claims to be policing. As such, your repeated claims on your website, in presentations to companies, and written documents and marketing materials to being "fully independent" are false, deceptive, or misleading. We request that you stop making these statements as they mislead both companies who are considering using the SFI label and consumers seeking green goods.

2. A drive to get major corporations to stop using SFI or its logo.
Sprint, Norm Thompson Outfitters, King Arthur Flour, AT&T;, State Farm, U.S. Bank and Comcast are the latest major brands to take action or make commitments that reduce their support for the SFI. Some of these companies also further boosted their environmental credibility by making stronger commitments to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) program.


SFI Certified: Clearcuts in Maine

This Plum Creek Timber logging operation in Maine was approved by SFI. It was formerly a wintering area for deer before the forest was clearcut. The Natural Resources Council of Maine asked SFI to take action against Plum Creek based on operations like the one depicted above. A year later SFI informed the environmental group that Plum Creek practices had improved and that therefore SFI would take no action against Plum Creek. Plum Creek President & CEO Rick Holley currently sits on SFI's Board of Directors. Photo courtesty of Natural Resources Council of Maine

3. A scary new slideshow

This was the source of the images in this post.

This battle has been going on for years and is getting awfully tiresome. Lumber companies all over the world manage to meet the FSC standard, cutting trees in a sustainable fashion and paying their workers a living wage. Just do it and let's move on.

More on the War in the Woods:
The Best Ever Explanation Of Why You Should Buy FSC Wood: Who Cares About The Forest?
Understanding Labels Part 2: Separating Green Building from Greenwash
Rumble In The Lumberyard: FSC Wins This Round

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