Sustainable Forest Certification Wars..

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Check out this piece in Forbes about the Certification Wars in Canada . I think it’s worth reading just to remember that there are other forest environmental issues besides public lands in the U.S.

For those of you who don’t follow this debate, remember that we couldn’t certify our local dead lodgepole to either standard because it doesn’t come from managed forests. Hence the EPA got credit fro greenness for importing bamboo from China for its building in central Denver, while dead lodgepole from around the corner was not “less green” but appeared to be “less green” due to the structure of the certification industry.

Even the Forest Service has touted its LEED buildings. I don’t know about you, but I feel that the FS has some very, very smart engineers and we should be paying all the bucks we have for this to get information from them about the best investments to make to make buildings greener and save the taxpayer bucks at the same time. This would be rather than pay some firm to certify that we are using less energy. Especially when they wouldn’t count the FSs’ own wood as sustainable.. So off that soapbox..

Between SFI and FSC..

Are there significant differences between the competing schemes? Independent observers see a convergence of standards as pressure for transparency on both groups has grown. Canada’s EcoLogo and TerraChoice, part of Underwriters Laboratories Global Network, each rate SFI and FSC identically. A United Nations joint commission recently concluded: “Over the years, many of the issues that previously divided the systems have become much less distinct. The largest certification systems now generally have the same structural programmatic requirements.”

University-based researchers who have scrutinized the two labeling programs have found few meaningful differences. For example North Carolina State professor Frederick Cubbage, North Carolina State University Forest Manager Joseph Cox and a team of researchers concluded that while SFI and FSC “have a slightly different focus, both prompt substantial, important changes in forest management to improve environmental, economic, and social outcomes.”

The convergence in standards has not stalled the politicization of the labeling competition. The two systems are currently going head to head in the US. The FSC has been entrenched because of the support from the US Green Building Council. USGBC adopted FSC standards in the mid-1990s, when it was the only game in town, for its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system. It’s remained loyal because of fierce lobbying by green activists. Hundreds of cities and agencies in the US now mandate LEED standards, which means that FSC receives preferential treatment in building projects across the country.

This has created some unintended consequences. Because FSC label accounts for just one quarter of North American’s certified forests, three quarters of the wood from the continent’s certified forests are not eligible for LEED sourcing credits. As a result, LEED creates incentives for green building projects to import wood from overseas, resulting in the browning of the supply chain from excess carbon emissions generated by shipping costs. Nonetheless, activist greenies have dug in their heels, determined to do everything in their power to delegitimize competing systems.

The USGBC has never explained why only FSC forests can receive LEED credits. Michael Goergen, Jr., CEO of the Society of American Foresters, has criticized the USGBC for not including other standards, stating, “FSC or better is neither logical nor scientific, especially when it continues to reinforce misconceptions about third-party forest certification and responsible forest practices.”

Some believe LEED FSC-only framework has led to a loss of jobs. Union leader Bill Street of the International Association of Machinists stated that the “ideological driven ‘exclusivity’ of FSC means that systems such as LEED contribute to rural poverty and unemployment while simultaneously adding economic pressure to convert forest land to non-forest land uses.”

Growing concern about the rigidity of the LEED program has led to the emergence of a competing green building initiative in the US. Green Globes, run by the Green Building Initiative, recognizes the SFI and is now in the running along with FSC to be the preferred federal certification program. The Defense Department, one of the earliest LEED adopters and a huge source of new construction, is currently not allowed to spend public funds to achieve LEED’s “gold” or “platinum” certification because of questions about whether the added costs are justified by the benefits.

What’s odd about this is that it is linked to biotechnology in forests.. but the problem with biotechnology in forests in North America is not a lack of acceptance. It is, and always has been, a lack of penciling out.

Now.. to relate to our usual business.. remember that these groups:
Rainforest Action Network, Friends of the Earth and World Wildlife Foundation, Greenpeace, ForestEthics and the Dogwood Alliance seem to believe that if you follow FSC guidelines you are being sustainable. That is, removing forest products and actually using them can be done in a sustainable way.

2 Comments

  1. The competition between SFI and FSC can be viewed as a anti-trust issue. SFI will incrementally improve its standards (convergence) until it can supplant and destroy the competition (FSC), then it will relax its standards and enjoy the windfall profits.

    • Tree, I’m happy to know you don’t just mistrust the Forest Service ;)!

      But the people who run SFI won’t make any more profit…???.

      PS I don’t know that anyone who hasn’t looked through the different FSC standards can really appreciate them..I published a paper a while back in Journal of Forestry just on the differences among the reforestation/genetic requirements in the US.. don’t know if they ever harmonized them.

      Below are their board members..
      Here’s a link (note I think they spelled “governance” wrong on their website…

      SFI Board Members

      Board members representing the environmental sector, which includes non-profit environmental or conservation organizations:

      George H. Finney, PhD President, Bird Studies Canada (site link)
      Tom Franklin Senior Director of Science and Policy, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (site link)
      John M. Hagan III President, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences (site link)
      Roger Sedjo, PhD Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future (site link)
      Larry Selzer (Vice Chair) President and CEO, The Conservation Fund (site link)

      Board members representing the social sector, which includes community or social interest groups such as universities, labor, family forest owners or government agencies:

      Richard W. (Dick) Brinker (Secretary-Treasurer) Dean Emeritus, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University (site link)
      Dr. Skeet (A.G.) Burris, Family forest landowner
      Stewart Hardacre President and CEO, Habitat for Humanity Canada (site link)
      Steven W. Koehn Director/State Forester, Maryland Forest Service (site link)
      William V. Street, Jr. Director, Woodworkers Department, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (site link)
      Charles Tattersall (Tat) Smith Jr. Former Dean and Professor, Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto (site link)

      Board members representing the economic sector, which includes the forest, paper and wood products industry or other for-profit forest ownership or management entities:

      Craig Blair President and CEO, Resource Management Service LLC (site link)
      Daniel P. Christensen, Chief Executive Officer, Hancock Natural Resource Group, and President, Hancock Timber Resource Group (site link)
      John B. Crowe Chairman and CEO, Buckeye Technologies Inc. (site link)
      Robert A. (Bob) Luoto (Chair) Representing independent Professional Loggers and the American Loggers Council (site link)
      Henry H. (Hank) Ketcham Chair of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer, West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd (site link)
      David Walkem Chief of the Cooks Ferry Indian Band, Merritt, British Columbia, and President, Stuwix Resources Joint Venture (site link)

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