Over the past five years, SFI Inc has been committed to constructively engaging in the U.S. Green Building Council’s forest certification evaluation in the LEED rating system. However, with a vote upon us for a set of overly complicated benchmarks that do not present a workable solution, we simply must vote no.
In arriving at the decision to vote against the proposed benchmarks, we had to consider the fact that the USGBC made zero changes to the final version, despite the plethora of comments it received from SFI and others. Furthermore, the 81 detailed benchmarks represent an overly complicated set of criteria that no other building material is measured against. This is not a decision that we arrived at lightly or easily. We believe in the power of working with stakeholders to find solutions that promote responsible forestry and support our communities across North America. These ideas are the very essence of our own program. It was for these reasons we participated in each of the four rounds of comments on the USGBC benchmarks. The fact is, a process that is being criticized by all sides is not a “winning formula” – it means we need to find a different solution, one that can achieve broader buy-in.
There is a simpler solution, one suggested by forest sustainability experts like The National Association of State Foresters (NASF), whose members are responsible for public forestlands on behalf of current and future generations and who passed a resolution containing five key elements of credible forest certification systems. NASF has urged the USGBC to consider these elements and “reward forest certification, not one brand, and show leadership by promoting certified wood as preferable to the vast majority of wood sourced from unknown sources.” We agree – with only 10% of the world’s forests certified, the USGBC should recognize the value of wood products from responsibly-managed forests and should recognize all credible forest certification standards: SFI, FSC, PEFC, CSA and ATFS. This is the solution supported by more than 6,000 people worldwide, including 99 Congressmen and Governors who urge the USGBC to recognize all credible forest certification standards in the wood certification credit and reward the use of domestic wood. The USGBC understandably must listen to the voices within their membership, but should also listen to a broader set of stakeholders, such as elected officials who are entrusted with the public good. With government-owned or occupied buildings making up close to one-third of all LEED projects, the government voice is one that should not be ignored.
USGBC President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi recently wrote “what makes leaders are the hard times and not the glory days.” How true. Making difficult decisions is never easy, and it certainly is difficult to diverge from a process that has taken five years and is still not complete.
We are ready and willing to work with the USGBC and other interests to find a sustainable and workable solution that recognizes the benefits of wood in green building and the proof point offered by forest certification. Until a solution is found, the building community can and should continue to use SFI-certified products in LEED buildings. By trading the one point available for certified products, they can demonstrate their pride and support for North American forests, communities, and jobs.
For information contact Jason Metnick at Jason.Metnick@sfiprogram.org.
NASF -2008-7 Policy Statement Forest Certification as it Contributes to Sustainable Forestry, “Key Elements of Credible Forest Certification Systems, http://stateforesters.org/files/2008.Forest%20Certification.pdf
- Independent Governance – The governance body should include economic, environmental, and social interests and operate independently from participants and compliance verifiers or auditors.
- Multi-Stakeholder Standard – A diverse group representing forestry, wildlife, conservation, industry, government, and academic expertise should establish an objective Standard for sustainable forestry with specific performance measures.
- Independent Certification – Certification requires verifying compliance with the Standard during full certification and periodic surveillance audits. This should be accomplished by independent, qualified, and accredited third-party auditors. Auditors should meet professional standards established by an independent accreditation body such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
- Credible Complaints & Appeals Process – There should be a clear process for credibly responding to on-the-ground compliance concerns or certification challenges.
- Open Participation and Transparency – Public and private sector landowners, including family forest owners, should have access to any forest certification program for which they qualify.