SFI and FSC Certification in North America — A Summary Comparison
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc.® (SFI®) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) programs both certify lands in the United States and Canada. This document looks at both programs — their scope and governance, forest management certification, chain-of-custody-certification, and requirements for sourcing fiber from uncertified lands. Studies have shown buyers and consumers appreciate the value of forest certification to help them choose forest products from responsible sources. Currently, about 10 percent of the world’s forests are certified, and 40 percent of these certified lands are in North America.
GOVERNANCE AND SCOPE
FOREST MANAGEMENT CERTIFICATION
These tables are based on requirements from the SFI 2010-2014 Standard and general information and details from the FSC International Principles and Criteria, which is the basis for the numerous FSC national and regional standards. While FSC regional standards go into more specifics, it is difficult to draw comparisons because the 13 FSC standards in North America have a wide range of variation.
The SFI program was created to certify forests in North America, and has one forest certification standard that applies across the United States and Canada. Its fiber sourcing and chain-of-custody standards apply to North America and offshore sources, given the global trade of forest products.
In addition to third-party forest certification, the SFI and FSC programs both offer chain-of-custody certification and on-product labels. Chain-of-custody certification is a tool used to track wood fiber from a certified forest. It also tracks uncertified content and helps buyers avoid unwanted sources.
The SFI program has two chain-of-custody labels, which show that some or all of the product’s fiber content comes from forests certified to the SFI, Canadian Standards Association or American Tree Farm System standards. Both SFI labels can state the percentage of recycled content in the product, when available.
The FSC program has three chain-of-custody labels — pure (100 percent certified), recycled (at least 85 percent post-consumer) and mixed (blend of pure, recycled and controlled sources).
Both SFI and FSC have requirements to avoid fiber from unwanted sources — the SFI program through its controversial sources avoidance requirements and the FSC program through its controlled wood requirements.
GLOBAL SOURCING FROM UNCERTIFIED LANDS
Given that more than 90 percent of the world’s forests are not certified, the SFI and FSC programs both have requirements to account for and deal with fiber from higher-risk uncertified lands. Through FSC controlled wood requirements, SFI fiber sourcing and SFI chain-of custody global requirements, companies are told what to avoid when procuring fiber from lands that are not certified. This reduces the risk of fiber from unwanted sources, but does not improve forest management on uncertified lands.
AVOIDING UNWANTED SOURCES FROM UNCERTIFIED LANDS OUTSIDE NORTH AMERICA
SOURCING FROM UNCERTIFIED LANDS IN NORTH AMERICA
The SFI program is unique in that it also has fiber sourcing requirements that promote responsible forest management on uncertified lands in North America, as well as avoiding unwanted sources for offshore procurement. This includes fiber and forest products that come from millions of family-owned forests in the United States and Canada. The SFI program offers participants an on-product certified fiber sourcing label that tells consumers the company has been third-party certified to
meet SFI fiber sourcing requirements, many of them summarized below. These labels do not make claims about certified forests but do show that a third-party independent audit has occurred to ensure the fiber sourcing requirements, landowner outreach and logger training requirements, among others, have been met.
PROMOTING RESPONSIBLE FORESTRY ON UNCERTIFIED LANDS IN THE U.S. AND CANADA
RECOGNITION IN NORTH AMERICA AND BEYOND
Comprehensive studies by many respected organizations and agencies have concluded that certification to either the SFI or FSC program is a good choice, proving a forest is being managed sustainably and legally. There is a growing trend, especially with chain-of-custody certification, to be certified to both programs.
• In 2008, the United Kingdom’s Central Point of Expertise on Timber confirmed SFI, FSC, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) programs were among those that meet its government’s requirements for ‘legality’ and ‘sustainability’.15
• The U.S. General Services Administration encourages the use of certified wood for all new installations of wood products, and references FSC United States and SFI for more information.16
• Many green building tools, including the National Home Building Standard™ (ICC 700-2008) in the United States and Green Globes, recognize wood products certified to credible programs including SFI, FSC, CSA, and American Tree Farm System as a sound environmental choice.
• Public Works and Government Services Canada requires all wood products used in its building projects to be certified to SFI, FSC, or CSA, and believes all three of these systems effectively promote more sustainable management of Canada’s forest resources.17
• In 2008, the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers said the SFI, FSC and the CSA programs “demonstrate, and promote the sustainability of forest management practices in Canada.”18
SOURCE, CITATIONS and FOR MORE INFORMATION: Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) International
15 CPET Assessment of Forest Certification Schemes www.proforest.net/cpet/documents
16 Solicitation for Offers requirement SFO Section 7.4 Wood Products (revised August, 2008) http://contacts.gsa.gov/webforms.nsf/0/16A3F7C2E0044E4485256F4D00628BE3/$file/SFO_8-29-08.pdf
17 Public Works and Government Services Canada Questions and Answers http://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/biens-property/questions-eng.html
18 Canadian Council of Forest Ministers Statement on Forest Certification Standards in Canada www.sfmcanada.org/CMFiles/PublicationLibrary/CCFM_Statement_Forest_Certification_EN1KWA-24122008-5150.pdf
19 UN Economic Commission for Europe and UN Food and Agriculture Organization 2008-2009 UNECE/FAO Forest Products Annual Market Review http://timber.unece.org/index.php?id=208