Sustainable forestry or successful greenwashing?

Ever wondered what’s behind the eco-labels we see on paper and wood products?

CBC’s Marketplace is airing a show on Friday (January 27th, 8:00pm) that takes a look at the practices behind one such label — SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative).  CBC asked me to accompany them to some JD Irving cuts in New Brunswick, so I did.  I’m rather curious to see how the show turns out.

There’s two main forest certification organisations battling for recognition and legitimacy: FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative).  While FSC is not without its faults, its standards are regarded as more rigorously protecting ecological values during forest cutting.

I’ve been critical of some forestry operations in Nova Scotia that were SFI-certified, particularly a cut by Northern Pulp Corp near Upper Musquodobit, NS.  The photos I took reminded some people of images of World War I.  Click here to see them.  I phoned the company responsible for the “green” certification of this opertation to see if there’d been a mistake, and was told no, there was no mistake — the company met their standards for sustainable forestry.  It begs the question of what a company would have to do to not meet the SFI standard!

4 comments
  1. Jen Powley said:

    Why are there two certification systems battling it out? Is one simply a sham, somehow sponsored by forestry companies?

  2. Hi Jen!

    The two systems are SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative – http://www.sfiprogram.org/) and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council – http://www.fsccanada.org/). FSC came first, and was created by a group of diverse interests from around the world including environmental groups, social interests, and economic interests… the founding meeting was in 1993 (I think) in Toronto – trivia! FSC has the greatest support from a diversity of interests – although certainly not without its faults.

    SFI was formed by the American Pulp and Paper Association as a response to FSC. It’s since been transformed into an organisation ostensibly separate from the forestry industry, but I have difficulty seeing any real, on-the-ground positive results from this certification organisation. They have, however, put a lot of effort into branding themselves as the sustainable forestry logo of choice to customers of wood products.

  3. Jen Powley said:

    Thank you. What efforts are being taken to inform the consumer that SFI isn’t so pretty – there is Marketplace, but is there a campaign that touches stores, so consumers can know right in the paper section what they’re buying/what they shouldn’t buy?

  4. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a coordinated campaign to inform customers about the practices behind the certification labels. Would be a good idea though!

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