The Forestry Source - July 2011 - (Page 7)
Daniel J. Simmonds
SFI vs FSC: Are We Asking the Wrong Question?
s a consultant and insider in the business of “green” certification for paper and wood products, I’m getting a little tired of the seemingly never-ending debate between our two principle sustainable forest-management certification programs. Both the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) programs have established themselves as important players in defining standards of responsible practice and sustainable sourcing. Those little graphical icons that we now find everywhere, on magazines, lumber, coffee cups, and pencils, are here to stay. So why are we still arguing over which program is better? I think it’s time to move on and start asking some questions that matter, such as, “How can we make these important programs better?” What are the actual differences between the standards? It’s easy to find well-written articles describing thoughtful, analytical studies comparing and contrasting the rigor, application, and details of the FSC and SFI Forest Management standards. One of best of these was just released this spring by the Dovetail Partners (www.dovetailinc.org) and was recently described in The Forestry Source (“Amidst Charges of Greenwashing, Report Compares FSC, SFI,” May). The same cannot be said for either program’s Chain of Custody (CoC) and product labeling standards. CoC has become hugely important in the marketplace for paper and wood products, but as its importance has increased, so has its complexity, and there really isn’t any comprehensive guidance available. The only answer here is to proceed carefully, read a lot, and think about hiring a good consultant. Which program is easier to work with? This is tricky, because it can easily be confused with the “which is better” question. From a perspective of efficient and userfriendly application, most practitioners would agree that the SFI program is a good deal simpler to work with than FSC. It’s fairly easy to
see why: the FSC-US National standard includes 191 individual indicators, while the SFI 2010–2014 standard has 115—not such a big difference. The FSC standard, however, is 109 pages long, while the SFI’s is 22 pages (including eight pages of definitions). The difference is in the level of detail. FSC is a performance standard, with much more specific and detailed requirements. SFI is more of a “system standard” and allows more latitude in its application. It can be (and often is) argued that the higher level of detail in the FSC standards makes them stricter, more credible, or otherwise better. I don’t think it’s quite that simple. What’s the difference between Certified Sourcing and CoC? This is one of the most commonly overlooked, and, in my opinion, most important topics in the business. The SFI program includes a CoC system that compares very closely with the FSC CoC program. But most of the SFI-labeled products that I see on the shelf don’t have CoC labels at all. They have Certified Sourcing labels, which may have no relationship at all to certified forests. The SFI folks point to this—in all sincerity—as a strength of their program, since it is direct evidence of the widespread implementation of their unique and impressive procurement standards, which promote responsible practices among private, uncertified landowners. Detractors of SFI, on the other hand, call this blatant greenwashing. They point out (correctly) that the Certified Sourcing label is virtually indistinguishable from the SFI CoC label. If the SFI logo can’t be associated with actual certified content, then how can it be trusted? I think they are both right: in effect, SFI has managed to take one of its program’s best features and turn it into a liability. This is a real shame and an area that deserves more attention and discussion. What is FSC Controlled Wood? In principal, the FSC Controlled Wood system makes good sense. It is also, in principal, essentially similar to the due-diligence process
included in the SFI program: both are designed to prevent illegal and ethically unacceptable wood sources from becoming mixed into certified products. In practice, however, this FSC program has become a disaster. FSC’s Global Forest Registry (www.globalforestregistry.org) designates Lithuania and Portugal as more desirable for wood sourcing than the United Kingdom, Canada, or Sweden. Here in the United States, small sawlog dealers in Indiana are finding themselves faced with the challenge of maintaining documented proof that their white oak was not procured from the Canadian boreal forest. Frustration levels are high, and I don’t see any solution on the horizon. Why don’t the SFI and PEFC systems mesh better? This is a mystery to me. SFI is a member and the designated national affiliate of the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. I can buy SFI CoC certified material, use it in a PEFC CoC system, and sell it as PEFC certified. But if I try to do the opposite, I’m out of luck. SFI recognizes PEFC-certified material as “responsible fiber sourcing” within its CoC system, but the same material cannot be used as part of a Certified Sourcing claim. PEFC does not recognize SFI Certified Sourcing. Confused? So is everyone else. It’s a shame that these two directly affiliated programs can’t find a way to better coordinate their systems. Is FSC actually a global standard? Yes and no. It’s certainly true that all FSC forest-management certification is based on a consistent set of 10 principals and 56 criteria, but actual certifications require locally adapted indicators that contain much of the important detail that defines the standard. The local indicators might be determined (as in the United States) by a national-level FSC affiliate. However, in many nations there is no approved national standard and on-the-
ground applications vary widely. As a result, we now have FSC-certified, South American plantation-grown eucalyptus pulp competing favorably in US markets with SFI-certified northern bleached softwood kraft pulp. Is this a good thing? It depends who you ask. Which program is best for me? This is perhaps the best question of all and one that I encourage all of my clients to ask. The answer can come from a variety of perspectives. A state agency might want to promote sustainable land management and forest-dependent rural industries. A wood-using manufacturer might want to promote the “green” attributes of a particular product line, hoping to increase market share and build brand equity. A conservation-oriented land trust might want to demonstrate to its foundation underwriters that it is operating with internationally recognized standards of excellence. All of these goals may be served by either SFI or FSC. Sometimes it will make better sense to implement both. Viewed from a particular perspective, each program offers strengths and weaknesses, liabilities and opportunities. And, of course, both programs and the whole marketplace are still changing and evolving rapidly. The trick is to weigh all these factors and try to find the best fit for your organization. Dan Simmonds, CF, FCA, is a forester and management system consultant who has been an SAF member for 28 years. He has 20+ years of land management experience in northern New England, and for four years has managed forestry certification programs for a large, third-party certification firm. He also is principal at MixedWood (www.mxwood.com), a consulting firm specializing in environmental certification systems for paper and wood products.
Biomass Energy at University of Montana The University of Montana’s Board of Regents recently approved the installation of a $16 million woody biomass gasification heating system for its Missoula campus. The system, designed by Nexterra Systems Corp., of Vancouver, British Columbia, will consume as much as 21,000 bone-dry tons of logging residue per year. The plant will displace 70 percent of the university’s natural gas consumption, resulting in savings of about $1 million in its annual energy costs. In March, Nexterra unveiled the design of a similar system for the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, which will displace as much as 85 per cent of the university’s natural gas consumption. Chevron, Weyerhaeuser: “Renewable” Crude Catchlight Energy LLC (www.catch lightenergy.com), a joint venture of Weyerhaeuser Co. and Chevron Corp., will supply woody biomass to Kior Inc. for conversion
into “renewable” crude oil. Kior, based in Pasadena, Texas, will use a fluid catalytic cracking process with a special catalyst that converts woody biomass into an oil, which is then refined into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels. Kior’s $190 million plant, to be built in Columbus, Mississippi, will produce about 11 million gallons of fuel per year. West Coast Export Numbers A total of 413.1 million board feet of softwood logs and 224.9 mbf of softwood lumber were exported from Washington, Oregon, northern California, and Alaska in the first three months of this year, according to the US Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station (www.fs.fed.us/ pnw/publications/index.shtml). “The volume of softwood log exports was up 50.5 percent from 208.5 million board feet in the first quarter of 2010, while the volume of softwood lumber exports was up 53.1 percent from 119.5 million board feet,” said Debra Warren, a research economist at the station. Softwood logs: In Q1 2011, about 104.9 million board feet (25.4 percent) went to Japan, 71.5 million board feet (17.3 percent) went to South Korea, and 220 million board feet (53.3 percent) went to China. Douglasfir accounted for 58.1 percent of these log
The Forestry Source
exports; western hemlock, 26.5 percent; spruce, 11.0 percent; and other softwoods, 4.4 percent. The total value of these log shipments was $275.6 million at the ports of exportation, and the average value was $667.19 per mbf. Douglas-fir averaged $770.96 per mbf; hemlock, $569.24; spruce, $314.75; and other softwoods, $769.69. Softwood lumber: About 100.3 million board feet (44.6 percent) went to China; 46.5 million board feet (20.7 percent) went to Canada; and the remainder went to Japan,
(“Wallow Fire” continued from page 4)
Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, and South Korea. Douglas-fir accounted for 40.6 percent of these exports; cedars, 5.3 percent; western hemlock, 16.5 percent; and other softwoods, 37.6 percent. The total value of these lumber shipments was $134.3 million at the ports of exportation, and the average value was $597.09 per thousand board feet. Douglas-fir averaged $725.67 per mbf; cedars, $905.83; western hemlock, $532.44; and other softwoods, $443.73. during the next two decades will determine whether we can leave landscape legacies for future generations,” he said. As of June 13, the National Fire Information Center reported that 31,115 fires have burned in the United States so far this year, less than the 10-year average of 33,387 fires. However, nearly 3.6 million acres had burned, more than 2.5 times the year-to-date average over the last decade. The situation is similar in Canada. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, fewer fires had burned in that nation as of June 12—1,528 fires, 63 percent of the 10-year average—but 864,956 hectares (2,137,344 acres) had burned, nearly 3.4 times the 10-year average.
Institute, more than 300 million acres of ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests in the West are at risk of catastrophic wildfire. “Especially with drought and climate change, there is an urgent need to restore forests to their most resilient condition,” he said. “That requires protecting the oldgrowth trees and thinning most of the small-diameter trees.” Covington said collaborative restoration efforts such as the 4FRI will make the difference between forests that have become liabilities and put neighboring structures at risk and forests that are assets. “Our success in restoring forest health
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Forestry Source - July 2011
The Forestry Source - July 2011
The Issue of SAF Membership
SAF Faculty Representatives: An In-Depth Look
University of Idaho SAF Student Chapter Holds Seminar Series on Current Natural Resources Issues
Government Subsidies: Coming Soon to a Forest Near You?
Blight-Resistant American Chestnut Planted on Hoosier National Forest
Science & Tech
Continuing Ed. Calendar
The Forestry Source - July 2011