SFI Continues to Grow
By Bill Tice
As North America’s lumber industry improves and the demand for lumber increases, forest products certification continues to play a significant role in the plans of lumber producers, sales organizations and retail lumber sellers.
By Bill Tice
These days, some distributors and retailers won’t stock lumber that isn’t certified by one of the big four certifying organizations – Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). Most lumber producers in Canada subscribe to one of these programs, guaranteeing their customers are using products that meet certain environmental and social criteria, including chain of custody documentation.
One of the programs that has seen rapid growth over the past couple of years is North American-based SFI, which held its annual conference in Vancouver last fall. They have an office in Washington, DC and representatives across North America; in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, South Carolina, and Arizona. They also have a European presence with representation in Sweden.
“The theme of our 2010 conference was ‘The Power of Partnership’ which was also the theme of our latest progress report,” says Kathy Abusow, SFI’s Ottawa-based president and CEO. “This is very fitting as SFI is certainly growing and being recognized around the world for building partnerships ,” she added.
“Partnerships breathe life into our program and drive the importance of what we do home for so many people,” Abusow told the delegates at the conference closing. “Partnerships with groups from Habitat for Humanity to Time Inc. to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation allow us to get involved with so many projects we’re proud of.”
Stewart Hardacre, who joined Habitat for Humanity Canada in 2008, said he welcomed the opportunity to work more closely with SFI Inc. “Habitat for Humanity Canada and SFI both are grass-roots organizations that rely on collaboration with diverse partners to make a difference in our communities,” Hardacre said.
SFI has made major gains over the past couple of years with its certified forest area growing by 12% since the end of 2009. At the end of December 2010, that number was at more than 73 million hectares. SFI reports that chain of custody has also shown “significant momentum” and the organization has now issued nearly 1,000 chain of custody certificates at over 2,300 locations. Those numbers are up from 807 and 1,831 respectively in December 2009.
More businesses and more consumers want to know they are making a responsible choice,” Abusow explains. “In a recent market test, we found that consumers felt the concept of certification was important, and most were willing to buy a certified product even if it cost more.”
Looking down the road, Abusow and SFI say one of their biggest challenges will be to continue to raise consumer awareness of the benefits of forest certification, and then meet the demand by having enough certified products available to the market. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe/Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNECE/FAO) has stated in its annual forestry review that factors driving demand for certified products include green building initiatives, public sector procurement policies and legislation in the European Union and the United States to prevent illegal logging. They also point out that only 9% of the world’s forests are certified. This is a figure that Abusow and SFI want to increase and as she has stated in the past, Abusow says it doesn’t matter which of the certification processes organizations chose, as long as they get certified. “All certification is good,” she emphasizes. “And we can all work together to improve the amount of certified forests.”
That’s a message that Abusow will continue to deliver to the US Green Building Council (USGBC). SFI has been lobbying the USGBC to accept SFI certification as part of its Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program. Currently, the only certification program recognized for credit under LEED is FSC and a vote by USGBC on forest certification benchmarks held last December held the status quo. “The conclusion of the benchmark process marks a new opportunity to work with the USGBC and other interests to find an alternative and workable solution moving forward,” says Abusow. “One that works for USGBC’s members and at the same time recognizes the benefits of wood in green building and the proof point offered by forest certification.”