Volume 47, Issue 1 - January/February 2008

Shades of Green
The Green Movement
by Russell Richardson, Director of industrial markets for the Southern Pine Council in Kenner, La. Mr. Richardson’s comments are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

The Certification Aisle
Groups Have Different Philosophies on Forest Preservation 

The July/August Shelter 2007 piece “What’s in Your Wood?” correctly addressed the importance of choosing certified wood products over products from mismanaged and illegally logged forests (see page 18 of that issue). Dealers should do their research and educate themselves and their staffs, on the many certification programs out there, if for no other reason than to be a well-educated source of information for their customers. But there’s more to this story. The last line in the article stated: “Perhaps it’s a little early for an organic aisle in your showroom ... ” Actually, it’s not. 

It’s Crowded
The forest products certification aisle is quickly becoming as crowded and chock-full of product as the cookie aisle at your local grocery store. Internationally, there are numerous wood certification programs, all theoretically aiming for the same result: certified wood products from properly preserved and sustainably managed forests. But look closer at the wrapper—philosophical differences do exist. In the United States, three certification programs are used most commonly.

The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) was established in 1941. ATFS has approximately 27.5 million acres under its program. 

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) was created in 1994 by the American Forest and Paper Association. SFI has 137 million acres enrolled and 127 million acres certified in its program currently. 

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a result of the 1992 Earth Summit concern with global forest practices. In 1995 Europe-based FSC created a United States chapter that has about 23 million acres certified.

Read the Fine Print
So how do you tell the difference? Flip the package over and read the fine print. Both SFI and FSC have been expanded and aggressively marketed for consumer and industry acceptance. They have implemented chain-of-custody programs that allow customers to track a board backwards from the store where it’s purchased to the forest from which it originated. 

But while the SFI and FSC programs may look and taste similar, rip that package open and see what’s inside. Each program was created by two very different groups with very different forest preservation philosophies.

FSC is the creation of individuals and organizations concerned with mismanaged and illegally logged global forests in countries with few or no regulations. The U. S. chapter of FSC is trying to mold its international program to the same standards used within the U.S. forest products industry, but SFI is already there. 

SFI is designed to work with existing U.S. forestry regulations already in place. To increase global recognition of the program, SFI is affiliated with the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), an international forest certification body with more than 500 million acres certified globally. SFI now serves as the overseeing body of forest certification for PEFC within the United States.

Bottom line? Be sure you know what you’re purchasing. Read the labels and the informational ingredients, and be sure the program you choose is the best for your region of the country. 

© Copyright 2008 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.