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Allstate, Office Depot, Five Others to Drop Sustainable Forestry Label

Aetna, Allstate and five other companies have made commitments to stop using the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) eco-label, a non-profit has announced.

ForestEthics said that Garnet Hill, Performance Bicycles, Symantec and United Stationers have all taken actions to drop the label, joining Office Depot, whose phase-out ForestEthics announced last fall.

The non-profit described the SFI label as “greenwashing”, and said the certification permits practices that are harmful to the environment. ForestEthics also alleges that the SFI misleads the public, operating as a non-profit charity even though it primarily serves and receives its funds from for-profit interests.

“SFI’s greenwashing of business as usual forest destruction is toxic for companies with strong environmental values and commitments,” said Aaron Sanger of ForestEthics. “These brands want tools and certifications that are truly green and build their credibility, not tools like SFI that are being investigated for misleading consumers.”

Yet publicly at least, some of the companies appear to have taken a softer stance. Office Depot’s green buying guide for its customers says that the SFI, and several other forestry certification programs, “are positive in that they provide strong guidance for good practices in responsible forest management.”

The main difference between the certifications of the SFI and its rival the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is that the former is regional, and the latter is internationally recognized, Office Depot said. “FSC is also the certification regarded as the ‘gold standard’ of forest management by more than 80 environmental groups like Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservancy,” Office Depot said.

ForestEthics announced that companies are taking the following steps:

Aetna: Committed to phasing out use of the SFI logo on printed marketing materials.

Allstate: Will shift all office paper in Allstate facilities nationwide from SFI certified to FSC certified.

United Stationers: Committed to using FSC as its benchmark for acceptable forest certification in procurement and marketing.

Symantec: Removed SFI language from website and committed to integrate this position into internal practices for paper marketing materials and packaging.

Garnet Hill: Will no longer print its catalog on paper labeled with the SFI seal.

Performance Bicycles: Will no longer print its catalog on SFI certified paper.

Office Depot: Will phase out use of the SFI logo on Office Depot brand papers as reported by ForestEthics in its 2010 Green Grades report.

The SFI responded, “ForestEthics continues to peddle pulp fiction about the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, repeating the same old inaccurate and misleading information… While we respect businesses making choices, there are dangers to a monopoly for one standard, especially one with limited acreage in North America.  The real damage from ForestEthics’ campaign is the potential for increased purchasing from offshore sources instead of our own forests.  That can hurt forest communities and cost jobs.”

In response to ForestEthics’ allegations about its connections to industry, SFI responded: “The reality is that like FSC, SFI has a three chamber board of directors with equal representation from the environmental, social and economic sectors.

“The SFI program evolved since its creation in 1994 and completed the full departure from the [American Forest & Paper Association] AF&PA in 2007, becoming an independent non-profit charitable organization. Only one member of SFI’s board of directors is also a member of the AF&PA and the SFI board does not have a seat dedicated to a member of the AF&PA.”

In December, a vote by members of the U.S. Green Building Council decided that FSC would continue to be the only certification accepted in LEED certifications.

The latest SFI standard, SFI 2010-2014, took effect on January 1, 2010.

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10 thoughts on “Allstate, Office Depot, Five Others to Drop Sustainable Forestry Label

  1. Wonderful! SFI’s response shows exactly why it should be shunned. They talk about the organization of the board structure rather than the rigor and meaning of the process. FSC is a meaningful standard with rigor behind it. The same cannot be said for SFI which, regardless of the organization of the board, remains an industry initiative with less oversight, meaning and rigor than FSC.

  2. ForestEthics is again spreading inaccurate and misleading information about the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. With several credible forest certification standards in the marketplace, there are many paths to the same goals. SFI is strong and growing – more and more companies accept and recognize SFI and many have inclusive policies, recognizing all credible standards – don’t be misinformed, learn the facts about SFI at http://www.sfiprogram.org/settingtherecordstraight.

  3. Go look at all the paper products made in the Far East and look for any certification whether SFI or SFC Forest Ethics are just another group trying to raise money for their own crap by going after the SFI organization

    I suggest that they get on a plane and go to China if they were half interested and exposed that country for all the violations against humanity. Go serve people not trees!

  4. I a a forester, familiar with the 3 major US certification systems (FSC, SFI, ATFS), and all are credible systems.

    But consider: the US South is the major pulp and paper region in the country. We have 2 million acres FSC certified, 19 million acres SFI certified, and 17 million acres ATFS (Amer. Tree Farm System)certified. There is little growth in FSC, for legitimate reasons. To be effective, certification must be cost-effective, understandable, and credible to the landowner. FSC fails on 2 of those counts.

  5. SFI has better substainable standards than FSC. FSC has a better lobby – they spend their money on pushing their agenda not substainability

  6. With only about 10% of the world’s forests being certified, shouldn’t we be more active in advancing and improving existing certification programs rather than tearing them down with “marketing” efforts that accomplishes neither?

  7. David Castle, I’m afraid you have things backwards. SFI spent $3.4 Million on advertising alone in 2008 – that was over half their budget. FSC in the same year spent less than $1 million.

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