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U.S. Green Building Council Rejects Sustainable Forestry Initiative Wood

12/8/2010 12:00:00 AM

Tags: green building, wood

Whether they end up going for certification or not, many homeowners and builders look to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards as guidelines for building green. (Acquiring LEED certification is expensive and laborious, but the guidelines are valuable tools.) Because of this, we’ve been closely watching the debate within the USGBC about whether or not to allow wood that’s been certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative—the timber and paper industry’s “self-regulating” seal of approval. We’re pleased that the council has chosen to include only wood approved by the Forest Stewardship Council, an independent third-party certifier.  

FSC lumber 
The U.S. Green Building only accepts FSC-certified wood as part of its LEED program. Photo By Mathew Wilson/Courtesy Flickr. 

SFI officials, understandably, are not so pleased. A statement on its website urges homebuilders to “forgo the one point in the certified wood credit and use SFI-certified products in LEED buildings to demonstrate their pride and support for North American forests, communities, and jobs.” We hope you won’t.

A ForestEthics report released last month found that SFI standards don’t protect old growth forests or endangered species and allow clear cutting and toxic chemical use.

SFI labels require no chain-of-custody tracking (meaning the SFI doesn’t actually know where half of its wood comes from); its certified companies don’t address any major issues (soil erosion, clear cutting, etc.) that sustainable forestry practices focus on; and its internal audit team spent very little time assessing a small percentage of its forest for standard violations. The report also found that SFI members are allowed to retain approved status when in violation of the organization’s lax standards.

Not all certifications are created equal. If you truly want to demonstrate your “pride and support for North American forests, communities and jobs,” reject the SFI’s greenwashing. FSC is certainly not perfect—but it’s the best we’ve got. We’re glad to see the USGBC agrees.

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