SFI Conference: The Power of Partnerships

The SFI Annual Conference was like a shot of adrenalin. Think about it – a gathering of more than 200 people from every link of the supply chain who share a passion for improving forest management and procurement.

Every year I am amazed at how much energy these events generate – and the 15th annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, was no exception. This year we had 20 sponsors – the most ever. That tells me something about the growing enthusiasm for certification and the SFI program.

This year our theme was the Power of Partnerships. I often point out how partnerships fuel the SFI program, but it takes an event like this to truly demonstrate just how much we all gain through collaboration.

Conference moderator Rick Jeffery described SFI as “champions of partnership”. The SFI program doesn’t pay lip service to the power of partnerships, he said, it walks the walk. As I pointed out in my opening address, the SFI story is your story because its success is the result of your efforts.

SFI Board Chair Marvin Brown noted that SFI is not an exclusive club – when the goal is improving the welfare of forests, it cannot be an exclusive club. I couldn’t agree more. Partnerships are only effective when they are based on trust and inclusivity. True leaders are more concerned about bringing people together to accomplish shared goals than are they are about winning.

Terry Petkau from Habitat for Humanity Canada put it well when he said a true partnership involves organizations that help each other to become the best they can be. Terry said Habitat for Humanity Canada is committed to sustainable building so it is thrilled to have partners like SFI and Built Green Canada. Ann Ralph from Built Green Canada said her program, Habitat and SFI are natural partners. Their presentations were well timed – earlier in the day, the latest SFI-Habitat- Built Green Canada partnership was announced .

Dan Petit of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Pete Davidson of Bird Studies Canada gave enthusiastic accounts of what they are achieving thanks to the new SFI Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant program. Dan said the grant was critical for a project he expects will garner massive habitat gains for birds that depend on younger forests – it involves conservation groups, government agencies and 30 SFI program participants in 14 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. Now that’s a partnership!

John Innes, Dean of Forestry at the University of British Columbia, said universities see the SFI Standard’s forest research requirements as a huge opportunity, and he urged delegates to think about partnering with universities when taking on research projects. We felt the conference was a great way to advance this kind of partnership so we sponsored the attendance of a number of UBC graduate students – representing both forestry and economics.

The SFI program wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of more than 2,500 organizations involved in our program globally, but it’s always great to recognize special achievements – and this year’s award winners highlighted our conference theme. All involved powerful partnerships.

I’ll talk more about our award winners in my next post. In the meantime, you can find more information on our conference website, including videos, speaker presentations, photos, and news releases. We even issued a multi-media wrap-up summary that covers the conference well – you can read that here or in my earlier blog post.

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