Volume 9, Issue 7 - July-August 2008

Which Way?

A Look at the Certification Options Available for Green Wood Products
by Penny Stacy

With a rise in green building programs that recognize independent environmental stewardship certifications, wood door and window manufacturers may be wondering if they should participate in any such program, and if so, what to expect from the process. In addition, many are wondering if the time and money involved in this process is worth the benefits.

On page 29, you’ll find the simple steps required for achieving certification chain-of-custody from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Chain-of-custody certification is a certification that tracks the wood in a product from the time it is grown to its use in a product. In addition, DWM has interviewed several manufacturer representatives who have chosen to achieve these certifications—and some who haven’t—regarding the benefits from each.

Green Building
The aforementioned green building programs introduced recently are one of the main factors that play into which certification—if either—a company chooses. The United States Green Building Council’s Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-for-Homes recognizes only FSC-certified wood when it adds up points for homes looking to achieve various levels of LEED. However, the newest green building program to make an appearance, the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Green Building Program, recognizes both programs as “green.”

“With the growing demands of green building, FSC [certification] is a must-have,” says Jon Sawatzky, product marketing manager for Loewen Windows in Steinbach, Manitoba. “It’s the only certified wood that is recognized in the LEED green building rating systems.”

For that reason, the company has not yet chosen to pursue SFI certification.

“We have and will continue to purchase SFI wood, but we are not chain-of-custody-certified in the SFI program,” Sawatzky adds. “We feel that SFI offers a good chain-of-custody program, but it’s not as strong as or as recognized as FSC …” Sawatsky declined to comment on what percentage of its work is derived from the FSC certification, citing confidentiality issues.

For Huber Engineered Wood Products in Charlotte, N.C., in general, achieving an SFI certification was the most convenient route for the company—and the fact that the NAHB program recognizes it was just an added bonus.

“[SFI] is more realistic for us,” he says. One particular issue Bob Potter, an engineer for the company, has with the FSC certification is the rotation age of trees required, which is 10 years. “That’s not realistic for our industry,” he adds.

Colonial Craft by Homeshield in Mounds View, Minn., has had FSC chain of custody certification for more than 15 years—since 1994—but has yet to certify with SFI.

“We do deal with softwoods and a lot of the softwoods are SFI-certified, but so far we have not [certified],” says Melissa Monchilovich, promotional manager. “We do have some customers that are looking for [SFI-certified] products, and we can say, ‘we can get SFI-certified products, but we’re not chain-of-custody-certified,’ and that’s usually sufficient.”

Leslie Holsapple, marketing coordinator for Windsor Windows and Doors in West Des Moines, Iowa, says the company has placed a major emphasis on making sure the majority of the wood it uses is environmentally friendly.

“More than 90 percent of the wood that Windsor uses comes from a sustainable site, and more than 70 percent is FSC-certified,” she says.

The company has seen an increase in demand from “green” builders in recent months—and that is part of the reason the company decided to achieve FSC chain of custody certification.

“Certain builders are considered to be green builders, so sometimes the demand is coming from [them],” she says, “and sometimes the homeowners.”

As for consumers looking to go green with certified wood products, Holsapple says the demand often depends on the area of the country in which they reside.

“It depends on their demographics,” she says. “People on the West Coast and in the Southeast are asking for [FSC certification] a little bit more.”

Holsapple noted that Windsor doesn’t track the percentage of its customers that request FSC-certified products.

Brian Hedlund, product marketing manager for JELD-WEN, which recently achieved SFI certification, has found the recent emphasis on green products to make this certification an asset to the company and its customers. 

“Achieving certification is a major benefit for our customers because they are looking for sustainable options,” says Hedlund.

FSC Certification in Five Steps
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) offers tips for certification in just five easy steps on its website, www.fsc.org.
• Contact one or several FSC-accredited certification bodies for an estimate in the costs involved in FSC certification for your particular company and needs. The certification body also will provide you with the requirements for meeting FSC certification. (For a list of FSC-accredited certification bodies, visit www.accreditation-services.com/CertificationBodies.htm.)
• Choose a certification body with which you’d like to proceed and sign an agreement to work with them in the future on your company’s FSC certification.
• The certification body will audit your company to assess its qualifications for FSC certification.
• The audit results will be utilized by the certification body to determine whether your company is suitable for FSC certification.
• If the accreditation body decides your company is qualified for FSC certification, you will receive an FSC certificate; if your company is not in full compliance with FSC, further audits can be conducted so that certification can be reached eventually. www.fsc.org

Five Steps to SFI COC Certification
If your company is looking to achieve the chain of custody certification offered by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the following six steps, provided by SFI, offer an overview of how to do so. 
• Contact an SFI-accredited certifier. (A list of these is available at www.sfiprogram.org/certifiers.cfm.)
• Submit an application to this certifier.
• Complete an on-site audit.
• Wait four to six weeks for approval; if approval is received, you’ll receive an SFI certificate.
• Following approval, complete further audits annually to maintain certification. www.aboutsfi.org 

The Deciding Factor
When it comes down to why Windsor chose FSC over SFI, the leading factor was the areas from which the company imports wood.

“The majority of Windsor’s wood comes from Brazil or New Zealand, which makes us more suited for the FSC program, while SFI is more targeted toward [wood originating in] the United States and Canada,” Holsapple adds.

Point 5 Windows in Fort Collins, Colo., is on the fence—utilizing products from both certifications in its business, according to president Dave Lundahl.

“The majority of our products use SFI frame components,” says Lundahl, “and we use FSC products when they’re called for.” Lundahl specified that about 30 to 40 percent of his windows’ frames are composed of SFI-certified products.

To date, the company hasn’t sought chain-of-custody certification for either.

“Quite honestly, it wouldn’t be a large enough percentage of our products to justify it,” he says. “I would say [our decision not to certify] is most certainly related to the cumbersomeness of it. There’s a tremendous amount of administrative effort that will lead to very little marketing gain. That’s been our perception, at least.”

Though customers do sometimes seek this certification from their suppliers, he says it’s a rare occasion in his particular market.

“The markets we supply, although they have an interest in [the certifications], it wouldn’t be their deciding factor,” he says.

Loewen Windows found the FSC chain-of-custody certification process for its Douglas Fir products to be quite smooth.

“Because Loewen has always been a leader in sustainability and environmental practices, we had few difficulties in becoming FSC-certified,” says Sawatzky. “FSC certification was a natural fit—we didn’t have to revamp our business practices or modify our processes. The review and audit process took time, but it was a necessary step.”

For Colonial Craft by Homeshield, which has been certified with FSC specifically for many years, the re-audit process does not impact its operations a great deal—if at all.

“The auditor comes here once a year and meets with our buyer, who’s our main contact for FSC, and … it is not a really big, drawn-out process,” Monchilovich says. She adds that while LEED builders certainly do seek the points from contracting companies that are FSC-certified, in general, having this certification has added to its customer base.

“It just opens up a bigger market for you,” she says.

What Others Are Doing
While SFI seemed to be the more popular certification among those interviewed for this article, who cited reasons of both its realistic qualities and its acceptance by the NAHB green-building program, a brief overview of both certifications’ websites show this isn’t necessarily the norm.

A search for “window” on the SFI products website comes back with one supplier that has achieved chain-of-custody certification: JELD-WEN. A search for wood doors on SFI’s website returns a list of five manufacturers.

The FSC product availability page returns more than 200 window manufacturers that have achieved some type of FSC certification, though the majority of these are located outside the United States. A search for wood doors with FSC certification returns almost 600 results.

To learn more about what each of these certification options entails, see sidebars on page 29.yyä www.fsc.org or www.aboutsfi.org 

Penny Stacey is the assistant editor of DWM magazine.


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