Multiple Forest Certification Schemes Beneficial

Jason Metnick, SFI Senior Director of Market Access and Product Labeling, recaps a recent article about paper certifications that appeared in The Hard Copy Supplies Journal.

The Hard Copy Supplies Journal from Lyra Research recently took a close look at steps papermakers are taking in regards to certification with SFI and FSC, in addition to other forest certification programs. The article, titled “Environmental Certification on Paper: A Look at Who Is Using FSC and SFI in North America,” construes an important message—multiple programs help better achieve widespread responsible forest management.

Several interviews with papermakers were conducted for the article.  Boise Paper, Domtar, Finch Paper, International Paper, Verso Paper and other paper companies use multiple certification systems, including SFI and FSC. A variety of reasons for holding multiple certifications were addressed.

As stated in the piece, “Finch Paper’s Dziengeleski points out there is only so much certified wood out there—he says that only about 10 percent of all forestland in North America has been certified as meeting either the FSC or SFI standard. Dziengeleski says, ‘For us, in our location in our wood basket, there’s not enough certified wood around from just one system. So by being certified to both, we are able to get more third-party audited forests producing wood.’”

The theme of multiple forest certification systems to meet demand runs throughout the Journal’s findings. As far as which forest certification system is “best,” most feel there is no clear winner—SFI and FSC are both great systems with their own sets of challenges. Competition within the market allows for more consumer choice, another reason why many companies choose to use multiple certifications. Papermakers take pride being able to offer more than one option for consumers. Additionally, multiple programs increase the quality of each—they push one another to improve.

In summary, our philosophy regarding multiple certification programs in the market is similar to the summary provided by The Hard Copy Supplies Journal:

While too many environmental labels on a package of paper may indeed appear to be alphabet soup to the average consumer, it seems that, like every letter in the alphabet, all the existing forest-certification, fiber-sourcing, and chain-of-custody programs are needed. FSC, SFI, PEFC, and other certification systems all have the same noble goal of responsible and sustainable forest management. To ultimately succeed in this endeavor, these organizations must continue to encourage participation among smaller, family-owned forests and forest owners and papermakers in developing economies. It is also crucial that these organizations continue to police certificate holders by auditing or periodically requiring recertification from certificate holders to ensure that all standards are being met and that a certificate holder is not using certification granted for a particular tract of forestland or mill to “greenwash” its image while continuing to practice questionable forestry practices in other parts of its business. Finally, these organizations and the papermakers that support them need to provide more education at the consumer and small and medium-sized business (SMB) level. While enterprises may have procurement policies and be well versed in “eco-speak,” more consumers and SMBs must learn to decipher the “alphabet soup” and recognize that acronyms such as FSC and SFI denote sustainable forestry.

The full article is available at Online registration is required to see the article in full.

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