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Seven More Companies Dump Sustainable Forestry Initiative

AT&T, State Farm and Comcast are among seven Fortune 500 companies that have joined a growing corporate movement against the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, an eco-label that a non-profit alleges “greenwashes” environmentally damaging products.

The trend began in March when seven other prominent brands – Allstate, Office Depot, United Stationers, Garnet Hill, Performance Bicycles, Symantec and Aetna – announced action to stop using the SFI’s eco-label on branded paper products or company publications.

Along with AT&T, State Farm and Comcast, Sprint, King Arthur Flour and U.S. Bank have now distanced themselves from the SFI while making stronger commitments to the Forestry Stewardship Council, according to advocacy group ForestEthics.

For example, Sprint will shift all billing statement paper from SFI to FSC and will phase out use of the SFI logo on billing envelopes. State Farm has changed the paper for its number one agent promotional item, the State Farm Road Atlas, from SFI to FSC products.

Last fall, ForestEthics published “SFI: Certified Greenwash,” which claimed that SFI, funded and managed primarily by some of the world’s largest timber companies, gives a green seal of approval to what the group calls the environmentally harmful practices of these same companies.

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9 thoughts on “Seven More Companies Dump Sustainable Forestry Initiative

  1. If the US became a true-cost nation, the sustainability issues above would be solved.

    Using Free-Market Forces To Save Our Life-Support System
    Jim Bell – http://www.jimbell.com
    The ecology of our planet is the foundation of everything we do, including what we do under the heading of economy. When we damage our planet’s life-support system through inappropriate economic activities, we undercut the potential for economic activities in the future. For example, most of the food humans consume is grown in ways that deplete, poison or otherwise contaminate air, water and land alike. Organic agriculture causes much less life-support and human health damage than non-organic agriculture, but it’s still not completely sustainable.
    Today, almost everything humans do causes life-support system harm. More precisely, it’s not so much about what we are doing, but about HOW we are doing it. The ways we support ourselves now depends on using up ever more non-renewable resources and using renewal resources in ways that make them difficult to renew. The result of this is over flowing landfills and evermore destruction of virgin land for raw materials to replace those buried in landfills.
    “True-cost-pricing” is a free-market strategy aimed at integrating the principles of life-support sustainability with economically sound business practices. The basic idea is to include all the costs, cradle to cradle, of all products offered for sale in the common retail marketplace to pay for any damage those offerings cause from the procurement of raw materials, their refinement, product manufacture, product use, and their disposal.
    Currently, the public, through taxes, health costs, property damage, etc. pays the health, environmental and social costs associated with health and ecologically damaging products. By paying these costs, the public is caught in the ironic position of actually subsidizing the very products and processes that are harming them and their life-support system. Even worse, these subsidies retard the development of technologies that are more health and ecologically benign or even positive by artificially lowering the retail cost of ecological, health and socially damaging products, technologies, etc. With true-cost-pricing, these costs, would be included in the market price of all market offerings, In other words, the health and life-support-costs of product offerings would be determined by an independent body, (perhaps Consumer Report Magazine would be interested in this job) and these costs would be included in the retail price of every product being offered for sale. Of course, there would be no cost added to the cost of health and life-support benign products and services.
    Including these costs up-front would cause the consumer price of health and life-support damaging products and services to rise, but even here we would save money over what we pay now because its always less expensive to avoid creating health and environmental problems than it is to cure sick people and heal damage to our common environment.
    As technologies become more ecologically sophisticated there is no reason for commonly used products to be any more expensive to purchase than they are now. In fact, in spite of the subsidies supporting health and life-support damaging products, the market price of some “Green” product is already lower than harmful products they replace and they usually work better too.
    But even if green products and technologies end up costing more at the point of purchase, under true-cost-pricing they would still be more cost effective to society. It’s less expensive to prevent ecological and social problems, than to fix them after they have been created.
    An additional true-cost-pricing benefit would be the elimination of solid waste disposal. With true-cost-pricing everything sold in the marketplace would be designed to be reused, recycled or composted. When all costs are included, this is the most cost effective thing to do.
    There is a general view that the free enterprise system is the antithesis of a healthy environment. With true-cost-pricing, however, free market forces can be powerful tools toward creating a secure life-support sustaining future.
    This article is based on a concepts developed in detail in Chapter III of Achieving Eco-nomic Security On Spaceship Earth, published in 1995. The book is available free at http://www.jimbell.com, click on “Jim’s First Book” (on the left side of your screen.)

  2. long understood by people in the sustainability field, but little known by the general public. concerned people can make a difference, one by one. A quick look at the SFI board and past rulings gave it a dubious start. Unfortunately organizations like LEED from the USGBC (of which I belong)seem to be seriously considering changing their standards to include SFI which I believe would seriously harm the the FSC organization. So the work continues,,,,

  3. The UN published its annual report on the state of global forestry earlier this year UNECE-FAO Annual Market Review 2009-10). It alluded to the marketing wars happening in North America. The report states that the systems have converged over the last few years. In addition it includes a statement from the US National Society of State Foresters .. “No certification system can credibly claim to be the ‘best’ and no certiication program that promotes itself as the only certification option can maintain credibiity. Forest ecosystems are complex and a simplistic ‘one size fits all’ approach to certification cannot address all sustainability need.”
    I too agree that SFI was initially poorly positioned to perform. However it has shed the industry oversight and now has a board composition that is very similar to FSC’s.
    I personally relish having programs in competition. The only thing that happens from competitive systems is we get improved sustainable forestry practices. . .

  4. Years ago, when SFC was introduced, I saw it’s certification as having merit, and shortly thereafter, saw the introduction of SFI’s certification.

    As a company offering to our customers only the most environmentally responsible papers available, we chose to offer FSC-certified papers, clearly seeing the SFI-certified papers as being based on what we perceived as “greenwashed” standards. To me, it appeared to be an attempt to make an industry look good, when indeed, the industry’s major players had no desire to become responsible stewards of our forests. We chose to not make SFI-certified papers available to our customers.

    It is encouraging to see the Fortune 500s drop SFI from their selected papers.

    Now, they need to take the next step: buy and utilize ONLY 100% post-consumer recycled papers that are made only from recovered waste papers, that are certified processed chlorine free, made carbon neutral from Green-e renewable energy, and made in the USA.

    We have only one planet supporting 7 billion of us. Unless, and until, we make conscious, educated choices, none of the certifications, whether valid or not, will matter.

  5. The 3 biggest certification programs in the world – FSC, PEFC and SFI – are today MUCH more alike than they are different. I wish they and their supporters would spend less time bashing the others and more time focused on expanding the available volume of certified wood products. The ForestEthics article has been discredited by more than one source. Here’s a link to the SFI rebuttle for starters: http://sfiprogram.org/newsroom/?p=1111. There are many credible enviromental organization that support SFI, PEFC and FSC. I’m not blindly defending SFI. Neither do I think any of us should see FSC or LEED as the only acceptable paths to certication heaven. Competition in business as well as in certification is a good thing.
    Mark Hayes

  6. As long as a forest is replanted, it is still a forest and thus sustainable; until it gets paved for a parking lot. SFI allows forest technology, while FSC focuses on maximizing bio-diversity; neither approach necessarily natural. What is lost on most people is that while not everyone would agree with SFI’s approaches, they are still an organization promoting forestry. If SFI loses relevance, those forests will probably not become FSC managed and opportunities to apply sound forestry to improve habitat, wildlife, and diversity across tens of thousands of acres will be lost. It’s better to encourage SFI to continue its trend of incorporating more natural forest management techniques than to abandon their label all together. Like them or not, SFI is focusing on landowners keeping their land in trees, rather than selling it off for development. The bottom line is that working forests stay in forests, and Fortune 500 companies that abandon their support by changing eco-labels may very well be ensuring that we lose the forests they once helped manage under the SFI eco-label.

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