FSC Versus SFI
by Christine MacDonald
When the Forest Stewardship Council rolled out the world's first "green" wood certification label in 1993, the organization quickly rallied big-box retailers like Home Depot to the cause. The largest do-it-yourself home improvement chain in the United States became a founding member of the FSC and publicly announced that it would soon ensure all of its products came from certified sources.
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For U.S. retailers, who had been picketed by environmentalists for selling wood from rainforests and other endangered ecosystems, going green was an easy call. "We started offering certified products as a way to reassure customers that we are buying from credible sources, before they start knocking the door down requesting it," Mike Eisen, then-manager of the company's environmental marketing efforts, told Wood & Wood Products magazine in March 1994.
But U.S. logging companies and mill owners, who had less business with consumers and therefore were less vulnerable to grassroots campaigns, took a different approach: in 1995, the industry launched the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) to go head-to-head with FSC.
Nearly a decade and a half later, the battle between FSC and SFI is crescendoing in a showdown over recognition in the LEED system, the preeminent green building standard in the U.S.
Since its inception in 2000, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has recognized only lumber with the FSC label as responsibly sourced. But the increasingly besieged U.S. Green Building Council, which created the LEED system and oversees its evolution, is currently writing new rules about wood-product sourcing.
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An FSC-certified harvest operation in Bedingfield Bay, British Columbia, in October 2008.
Photo: Derek Drake
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Inadequately reinforced roads on clearcut logging sites, like this one in the Coos River watershed in southwestern Oregon, can destabilize soil, which may eventually clog streams and rivers.
Photo: Francis Eatherington
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