Volume 47, Issue 7 - September 2008

Making the Green Choice

A Look at the Certification Options
Available for Green Wood Products

by Penny Stacey and Samantha Carpenter,

The Home Depot was a big reason that Triple Crown Building Products Inc. (TCBP) in San Antonio, Texas, became aware of the Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) certification for hardwood entry doors. The company supplies many Home Depot locations with its door products, and according to TCBP’s vice president Edwin L. Lauterstein, “We were tasked by The Home Depot to become certified.”

But it wasn’t just the hardware behemoth’s interest in its door supplier becoming FSC certified that prompted the company to look into this green program. “I believe that good stewardship of our natural resources is beneficial to everyone on the planet, and the FSC espouses a philosophy of conservative use of one of our most important renewable resources—trees,” says Lauterstein.

Similarly, Sierra Pacific Industries is a member of the American Forest and Paper Association (AFPA), and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification is required of all members.

Mark Pawlicki, director of government affairs, says his company “feels that SFI is a credible certification system that offers benefits to its members, and it is now a fully independent program. We would be SFI-certified even if we were not a member of AFPA.”

A national home-improvement retailer or industry association may not be mandating that your company become part of one of the wood certification programs. But with the rise in green building programs that recognize independent environmental stewardship certifications, you may be wondering if you should participate in any such program, and if so, what to expect from the process. In addition, you may be wondering if the time and money involved in this process are worth the benefits.

On page 23, you’ll find the simple steps required for achieving certification chain-ofcustody from the SFI and the FSC. Chain-ofcustody 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, SHELTER has interviewed several supplier and distributor representatives who have chosen to achieve these certifications—and some who haven’t—regarding the benefits from each.

Green Building
The green building programs introduced recently are some 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.”

“Quite honestly, the number one benefit (to being FSC-certified) is that some countries and some customers require this type of third-party scrutiny. It gives these customers the ability to purchase the finest Douglas Fir product in the world,” says Paul Beck, timber manager, Hubert Lumber Co. in Riddle, Ore. “Our product would not be available to them otherwise.”

Masisa USA in Atlanta, Ga., also chose to be FSC-certified.

“Masisa, as a South American Forest owner and manufacturer of building products, wanted the best external certification and chose FSC,” says Dan R. Schmidt, president of Masisa USA. “All of our forest plantations in Chile, Brazil and Argentina are certified by FSC and all operations are managed under ISO 14001 environmental management standards.”

“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-ofcustody program, but it’s not as strong as or as recognized as FSC …” Sawatsky declined to comment on what percentage of Loewen Windows’ work is derived from the FSC certification, citing confidentiality issues.

For other building product companies, SFI certification makes more sense.

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,” says Bob Potter, an engineer for the company. One particular issue he 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.

LP Building Products in Nashville, Tenn., wanted to ensure the sustainability of all its wood. “We decided to use one certification (SFI) to keep things simple,” says David Hudnall, corporate forest resource environmental manager. “We adopted the SFI program because of its recognition of and requirements for the non-industrial forestlands where so much of our wood comes from. FSC did not provide this opportunity to address sustainability on most of the wood we use in our products and it still doesn’t to this day.”

Tricia LaRose works in the log procurement and lumber sales department at Canyon Lumber Co. in Everett, Wash. She says that companies should conform to the SFI standard because it is vital to the industry.

“Promoting responsible forest stewardship plays a critical role in ensuring long-term health and sustainability of our forests.” Pawlicki says Sierra Pacific’s customers can be assured that his company is managing its forests in a sustainable manner under its SFI certification. “We not only produce wood products sustainably under SFI, but we also can assure our customers that we are protecting non-market values such as protection for wildlife habitat, water quality, archeological resources and other public trust resources.”

The Deciding Factor
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 [become certified],” says Melissa Monchilovich, promotional manager. “We do have some customers who 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.”

Masisa USA chose FSC rather than SFI certification because, “The company was convinced that this standard (FSC) was the best recognized standard in South America and other countries in which we operate, such as the United States,” says Schmidt.

Beck says that Herbert Lumber went with FSC over SFI because his company’s perception is that it is more independent of industry influence. “It also fit seamlessly with our raw material purchase program,” he explains. “It is extremely important to note that we did not change anything in the way we source our raw materials. We have added some new layers of accountability and FSC simply gives our customers assurance that a qualified third-party has scrutinized and agrees with our assessment.”

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.

For other companies SFI certification makes more sense.

“Both have developed comprehensive, consistent third-party certification procedures which integrate the perpetual growing and harvesting of trees with the protection of wildlife, plants, soils and water quality, thus resulting in the same goals,” LaRose says. “Multiple certification programs offer customers choice, supply and keep costs down.”

While Georgia-Pacific participates in the SFI program, the company agrees that different certification programs are beneficial to the industry.

“We view competition among these programs as vital to continuous improvement of the practices of sustainable forestry on all lands; however, not all programs are applicable or relevant for all landowners and every region of the world,” says Deborah Baker, vice president, Sustainable Forestry, Environmental and Community Outreach Programs. “FSC does not have a standard that applies to companies like GP that do not own forestlands.” Pawlicki sees SFI certification as more beneficial than FSC certification. “SFI is entirely a North American system, with one standard. FSC has many standards around the world, including 13 in North America,” he says. “We feel that SFI is more consistent and offers additional benefits such as public outreach and logger/contractor training.”

On the Fence
Point 5 Windows in Fort Collins, Colo., is on the fence—utilizing products from both certifications.

“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.

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

To learn more about what each of these certification options entails, see sidebars on page 24. ✔ www.fsc.org or www.aboutsfi.org

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