New Report Finds Forest Certification Program Misleads Consumers

On Wednesday, forest conservation NGO ForestEthics released Peeling Back the Eco-Labels, a report comparing the rigor of forest audits conducted in Canada by the two leading forest certification systems: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). The report found that the SFI certification program has serious flaws in comparison to FSC.

ForestEthics analyzed publicly available audit reports from the past 10 years and concluded that SFI is dramatically less transparent and audit teams were smaller and took less time for the audit process than FSC. More than half of the SFI reports were missing pertinent data and SFI rarely required logging companies to take any additional action to improve operations.

“Corporate customers and the public rely on forest certifications to know that the paper, fiber, and lumber they buy is responsible,” said Todd Paglia, ForestEthics’ executive director. “These labels should allow consumers to avoid products that destroy forests, poison waterways and wildlife, and violate human rights. In the case of SFI, the label is misleading.”

“Companies that do invest in environmentally sound practices suffer from SFI’s empty claims,” said Jim Ace, ForestEthics campaigner. “But 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.”

“SFI’s ‘green seal of approval’ is governed and financed by the logging industry — which gives it about as much credibility as a seal of approval for cigarettes by Phillip Morris,” said Paglia.

The FSC certification has become the recognized and trusted sustainability standard for wood, pulp and paper and the forests that produce them — and the organization is strict in ensuring certified products and woodlands continue to meet the criteria required to maintain their certification. In September, IKEA, Tetra Pak and Kingfisher announced they are partnering​ to promote the benefits of legal, responsibly sourced, sustainable timber and clarify the role of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification in the delivery of these values. The two-year Value and Impact Analysis initiative will support the development of a methodology for assessing the impacts of FSC forest management certification and the piloting of this methodology in selected areas. The effort is independent from the FSC but is designed to be useful to the organization, by providing a tool that shows the contribution it makes to the social, environmental and economic values of the world’s forests.

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