What do the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)—certifier for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) design and construction—Aetna, Allstate, United Stationers, Symantec, Garnet Hill Catalog, Performance Bicycles and Office Depot all have in common? They all are choosing to forego SFI-certified products.
ForestEthics has described the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) label as “greenwashing,” and said the certification’s requirements permit practices that are harmful to the environment. The non-profit also alleges that the SFI misleads the public, operating as a non-profit charity even though the initiative primarily serves and receives funding from for-profit interests.
Is SFI simply greenwashing? ForestEthics has published a report (“SFI: Certified Greenwash” PDF
) that it says, “uncovers the origin, funding sources, staffing and leadership of SFI.” The report looks at SFI’s relationships with paper and timber interests and disputes the organization’s claims of independences.
In response, the “Conservation Chamber” of the SFI Board has distributed an open letter refuting ForestEthics’ assertions. It reads:
As members of the Conservation Chamber of SFI’s Board of Directors, we take strong exception to ForestEthics' current campaign against SFI.
It is precisely the power of SFI to sustain fish and wildlife, biodiversity, water quality and, ecosystem functions (including mitigating and adapting to climate change) on 180 million acres of forest throughout North American that motivates us to serve on SFI's board. By serving, we help SFI continue to improve an already strong mechanism to conserve forests and their environmental values.
Groups that spread misinformation about SFI could well be harming the forest environment. SFI provides a tremendous amount of on-the-ground conservation value -- a value North Americans care deeply about. We believe SFI and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are both excellent mechanisms that improve the environmental (and social and economic) values provided by forests.† There is room and need for both programs.
The six of us who serve on the Environmental Chamber of the SFI Board have dedicated our lives to conservation. We would not be on the SFI Board if we did not believe it is a credible forest certification program, which we are able to advise and guide through our combined and diverse conservation expertise.
George H. Finney, President, Bird Studies Canada
Thomas M. Franklin, Senior Director of Science and Policy, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
John M. Hagan, Ph.D., President, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences
Roger Sedjo, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future
Lawrence A. Selzer, President and CEO, The Conservation Fund
Mike Zagata, Ph.D President and CEO, Ruffed Grouse Society
Is this a simple contretemps or a case of intentional greenwashing? Read the ForestEthics report and decide for yourself. In the meantime, click on the attached image for a larger version, and work your way through web of connections and relationships in ForestEthics’ “SFI Map of Influence.”