It is perfectly clear that SFI [Sustainable Forestry Initiative] has come under the full glare of the Forest Ethics spotlight. Office Depot, Staples, Victoria's Secret and Sears have all been subjected to the kind of scrutiny from Forest Ethics which SFI is now facing. The major difference is that it seems there is little SFI can do to effectively rebut the criticism from Forest Ethics that SFI is guilty of 'greenwashing'.
This is a hugely important issue for the timber industry and its allied industries as well as US paper. The majority of forests certified in the United States are certified under the SFI standards and while the FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] program is growing significantly and has the full and, occasionally, exclusive approval of most well known conservation groups groups - like Forest Ethics, the fact is that, at the very least in pure commercial terms, SFI is a widely accepted practice in the United States and is incidentally approved by the international certification umbrella program PEFC [Program for the Endorsementt of Forestry Certification]. This is not a small consideration as most European organizations with sustainability programs reaching into the forests accept PEFC.Unlike FSC, SFI is an exclusively USA based program.
I know several individual members of Forest Ethics, as indeed I do at SFI, and I know all of those people to be honest and to hold the very best interests of United States forests very closely indeed. There is equally no doubt that SFI can do little to combat the kind of attack which Forest Ethics has chosen to launch. The program is designed to persuade end-users of forestry products, be it wood products or paper, that only FSC is an acceptable forestry-based program. It would be much easier if the criteria which are offered by Forest Ethics were clear and simple to either accept or counter. They are not. For example the Forest Ethics suggestion that SFI is "dominated by members of the industry" and that SFI appoints members of minor conservationist groups to its board as a "sop" to its conservation bona fides may be true, but, only depending on your point of view.
SFI quite rightly points out that with 90% of the world's forests without any form of management, it may seem small minded to attack them when there is so much else to be done in the world of forestry. It is probably true that many of the fundamentals of their program are at least as respectable and respected by conservation groups as well as members of the relevant industries.
FSC meanwhile remains silent, quite content to remain quiet behind the Forest Ethics assault on SFI. In my opinion having at least two certification programs available to forests in the United States makes pure economic, practical and political sense . Is it too much to hope that SFI and FSC could find some common ground at some point, and achieve solutions to the benefit of our society as a whole?