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ForestEthics says SFI certification program lacks rigour


January 13, 2015
By Pulp & Paper Canada

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ForestEthics has released Peeling Back the Eco-Labels, a report comparing the rigour of forest audits conducted in Canada by the two leading forest certification systems: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry…

ForestEthics has released Peeling Back the Eco-Labels, a report comparing the rigour of forest audits conducted in Canada by the two leading forest certification systems: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). The report concludes that the SFI certification program is less rigourous and less transparent in comparison to FSC.

ForestEthics analyzed publicly available audit reports from the past 10 years and concluded that SFI is dramatically less transparent and audit teams were smaller and took less time for the audit process than FSC. More than half of the SFI reports were missing pertinent data and SFI rarely required logging companies to take any additional action to improve operations, says ForestEthics.

“Companies that do invest in environmentally sound practices suffer from SFI’s empty claims,” said Jim Ace, ForestEthics campaigner. “But the biggest victims are our ecosystems, the people who live there, and everyone who wants to know that the paper they buy isn’t destroying forests.”

ForestEthics is a U.S. and Canadian environmental advocacy coalition that, by its own description, “demands that corporations and government protect community health, the climate, and our wild places.”

ForestEthics analyzed publicly available audit reports for companies across Canada from FSC and SFI over a period of ten years. The organization used several basic assessment criteria, including the qualifications and composition of the audit teams, the thoroughness of the audit process, and the transparency of publicly available reporting. The organization also examined the frequency with which the audits required changes in forest management and conservation practices, as an indicator of the overall environmental and social rigor of the certification systems’ forest management standards.

The data revealed profound differences in the rigor of FSC and SFI audits.

FSC audits required many more changes and improvements in forest management than did SFI audits. FSC averaged four times as many major non-conformances per audit and six times as many minor non-conformances as SFI audits, says ForestEthics.

ForestEthics also notes that more than 50% of the public SFI audit reports excluded pertinent data, while none of the FSC reports excluded such data.

As well, the average FSC audit took almost three times more auditor days than the average SFI audit. The average FSC audit team was 76% larger than the average SFI team.

The full report is available from ForestEthics here.