A Green Education
Jobbers Need to Know Which Forest Certification Their Products Carry
by Samantha Carpenter
One of the hottest topics today is forest certification. Many companies want to be known as “green” which means producing or selling products that are made from well-managed forests.
“Educating the public on the truth about forests is key,” said Greg Jolly, vice president of marketing and sales for Weyerhaeuser Co. of Federal Way, Wash., in a recent article in SHELTER’s sister publication, DWM/BCM magazine. “The plain truth is that we’re not running out of trees. In fact, there’s more timber in North America than ever before. The window and door industry knows that keeping forests healthy means resource management and the highest level of care for wildlife. Sustainability at its best is growing timber for products in a manner compatible with maintaining other resources as well,” said Jolly.
Companies can make sure that their lumber supply comes from well-managed forests by becoming involved with a forest certification program.
“There’s no single certification program touted as the perfect plan,” said Jolly, “The bottom line is that the program should fit the business of the company and its market, and it should promote sustainable forestry.”
If the companies from which you buy your products haven’t picked a certification program yet or if your products carry a forest certification logo, hopefully the following information on the top three forest certification programs—the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Canada National Standard on Sustainable Forest Management Standard (CAN/CSA)—will be helpful.
FSC Versus SFI
A report released by the Meridian Institute in October 2001 and sponsored by the FSC-U.S., the Home Depot and SFI outlines the similarities and differences between the FSC and SFI.
“The primary purpose of the report is to provide purchasers of wood and paper products, consumers and the general public with accurate, relevant information about key similarities and differences between the two programs,” said the executive summary.
Both programs were started because of the 1987 Brundtland Commission Report titled “Our Common Future” and elements of Agenda 21 from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. “With that common reference, both programs seek to advance the overarching goal of improving forest management practices in the United States,” said the summary.
Another similarity of the programs is that they are “supported by comprehensive and steadily evolving documentation of standards, accreditation of certifying firms, certification processes and use of labels for marketing and certified forest products,” said the summary.
The report does indicate that there are important philosophical differences between the two programs that relate to their beginnings.
“The FSC program can be characterized as a program that began with a strong NGO [Non-Governmental Organization] focus on the environmental and social values of natural forest ecosystems to which it adds an important economic viability dimension. The FSC was founded in 1993 under the impetus of environmental and social NGOs to encourage the consuming public to reward exemplary forest management of industrial, private, government and community-owned forests. As an international initiative, it is comprehensive and addresses a substantial array of environmental and social aspects of sustainable forestry that can be applied in a wide array of forestry conditions,” stated the report.
The SFI in comparison “can be characterized as a program that began with a strong industry focus on forest lands that were acquired or owned for the production of forest products, to which it adds an important environmental dimension. The SFI program was launched in 1994 by the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) in response to sagging public attitudes toward the management of the nation’s forests. Its focus is to visibly improve the forest practices of the U.S. forest products industry and to promote sustainable forestry among private and other landowners in the United States. As a national initiative within the United States and later in Canada, it functions within the context of a broad body of environmental and social laws in those two countries. Initially created as a self-improvement program of the AF&PA, it has evolved into a program that promotes third-party certification of forestry practices of member companies and licensees.”
The Meridian report also states that the two programs have different objectives. “The SFI program operates under the philosophy of ‘a rising tide that raises all boats.’ It consists of a set of standards aimed at all aspects of the forest industry from landowner to producer, and it establishes a baseline of performance that builds on the concepts of sustainable forestry,” said the report.
“FSC standards emerged out of a desire to provide market rewards through the labeling of forest products with a logo designed to distinguish products derived from lands certified as complying with a global set of principles and criteria of exemplary forest management or forest stewardship,” said the report.
In the U.S. most hardwoods grow east of the Mississippi River. In Canada they are most abundant in Quebec and Ontario.
In order to be certified, both the FSC or SFI have a tiered structure of principles and supporting requirements, but the two programs are structured very differently, and “the differences in structure make it difficult to compare program elements point by point,” said the report.
Both programs also differ in their certification approaches. “AF&PA member companies are required to annually report to AF&PA the results of first-party verification (self verification) against the SFI standard as a condition of membership in the AF&PA. Second-party verification by a customer is optional. Third-party certification to the SFI standard is also optional; however, it is required for all AF&PA members and licensees who desire to use the newest version of the SFI program logo or use the SFI on-product label when it is authorized by the Sustainable Forestry Board (SFB) or the AF&PA … A summary of third-party certification must be made public only if the company decides to publicly proclaim the result of the certification, rather than use it solely for internal purposes. At a minimum, the summary must include the ‘general results of conformance to the SFI standard,’” stated the report.
The FSC in comparison uses third-party certification only. “The FSC requires the certifying body to publish an announcement of plans for a pending certification to stakeholders 30 days in advance of the certification audit. The FSC requires extensive consultation with stakeholders, experts and interested parties during the audit. Award of certification requires a summarized report by the certifying body that must be made available to the public. The contents of the report are itemized by the FSC … The summary must be posted on the certifier’s website, and the summary and the entire assessment report are also on file at the FSC International. The certified landowner must make available a summary of the key elements of the management plan and the results of [the] monitoring of the impacts of the management plan upon request,” said the report.
CNS on Sustainable Forest Management
While we’ve taken a look at the FSC and SFI, let’s not forget a third forest certification program—CAN/CSA.
“The Canadian Standards Association is a not-for-profit membership-based association serving business, industry, government and consumers in Canada and the global marketplace … CSA has been working in the environmental area for the past decade. During that time, there has been heightened awareness about forest management practices,” said the association.
Out of the heightened awareness, CAN/CSA Z809 was established. “The CSA standard required extensive public participation in its development. It was first published in 1996 following years of discussions and work through an open and inclusive process managed by the CSA. One quarter of the CSA Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) technical committee was comprised of forest producers, including wood–lot owners, while the remainder were scientists, academics, representatives from the provincial and federal governments, as well as environmental, consumer, union and aboriginal representatives,” said the association.
The CSA SFM requirements cover three key areas: public participation, performance and “systems to achieve the desired results,” said the association.
The CSA standard requires organizations to seek comprehensive and continuing public participation for each forest. “The public identifies forest values of specific importance to their environment, social and economic concerns and needs. [They] also take part in the forest planning process and work with the organization to identify and select SFM goals, indicators and objectives to ensure these values are addressed,” said the association.
The CSA standard also requires each party to adhere to the local forest level to the best suite of “broadly-accepted Canadian forest values generated to date (i.e. the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers set of Sustainable Forest Management criteria). These criteria include maintenance of biological diversity, forest ecosystem and productivity maintenance, soil and water protection, ecological cycles, benefits to society and the rights of aboriginal forest communities.
“The CSA standard has system requirements which are consistent and recognized by the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System standard, but goes beyond those system requirements by setting out performance requirements that must be specific to each local forest,” said the association.
How does an organization get certified under CSA/CAN Z809?
To become certified, a party has to go through a third-party independent audit of the SFM requirements in the standard. The audit has to be conducted by a certifier accredited by the Standards Council of Canada. “In addition the individual auditors employed or contracted by the registrar have the requisite forestry expertise and are certified as environmental auditors by the Canadian Environmental Auditing Association.”
Each organization after being certified has to be reviewed annually, which includes a document review and spot checks in the field.
Opinions of Companies Certified
You can see each forest certification program has its advantages, but it might help to see how employees of those certified companies feel.
Canadian Forest Products Ltd. (Canfor) of Vancouver, British Columbia, became certified under CAN’s SFM requirements in September 2001. “Canfor is very proud to have completed the certification of all our area-based tenures to the CSA SFM standards,” said David Emerson, president and chief executive officer. “Canfor chose to pursue the CSA certification standard not only because it is consistent with international criteria for sustainability, but because it also requires a high level of public participation,” he said.
Bob Owens, president of Owens Forest Products of Duluth, Minn., said his company became certified under SFI because the organization focused more on sivicultural management and has let the laws of the country govern the social issues. “We feel it’s important to be involved [in forest certification] to differentiate ourselves by taking the extra steps to make sure our supply and our doors are coming from sustainable forest lands,” said Owens.
Scherer Brothers Lumber Co. of Minneapolis was recently FSC certified. “It was a very comprehensive year-long process,” recalled Chris Bougie, a millwork purchaser for the company, but worth it to us and our environmentally-sensitive customers. We have always believed in sustainable, well–managed forestry and are committed to guiding relationships with those who are environmentally and socially responsible.”
While the main facts of each forest certification program have been laid out for you, you may want to learn more about these organizations. For information, please visit each organization’s website:
CSA/CAN Z809: http://www.sfms.com/csa.htm
Editor’s Note: Look to future issues of SHELTER to learn more about forest certification (i.e. how different companies are benefiting from being associated with one of the forest
certification programs or how forest certification is helping companies get an advantage with consumers).
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