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Busted: Sustainable Forestry Initiative Label is Greenwash

11/23/2010 12:00:00 AM

Tags: Sustainable Forestry Initiative, SFI, greenwashing, sustainably harvested wood

When the Sustainable Forestry Initiative label emerged 16 years ago, many consumers were fooled into thinking they were buying wood grown according to standards similar to those used by the Forest Stewardship Council.  

SFI markets itself as a sustainable third-party certification standard, but the label represents the paper and timber industry’s self-regulation standards—which fail to meet some basic requirements of sustainable forestry.  

Last week ForestEthics released a report showing that SFI standards don’t protect old-growth forests or endangered species and allow clearcutting and toxic chemical use.  

old growth forest 
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative's practices don't protect old growth forests. Photo By jchapiewsky/Courtesy Flickr. 

SFI labels require no chain-of-custody tracking (meaning the SFI doesn’t actually know where half of its wood comes from); its certified companies don’t address any major issues (such as soil erosion and clearcutting) that sustainable forestry practices focus on; and its internal audit team spent very little time assessing a small percentage of its forest for standard violations. The report also found that SFI members are allowed to retain approved status when in violation of the organization’s lax standards. 

ForestEthics has filed two complaints against the SFI: one with the Federal Trade Commission for offering a green seal of approval to destructive companies, and one with the Internal Revenue Service suggesting that the SFI’s funding and activities inappropriately serve private rather than public interests, a big no-no for an organization with nonprofit status. 

When it comes to sustainable wood, our choice is clear. Look for products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council—the original (and real) sustainable forestry standard. 



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