If You Can’t Beat Them, Try to Silence Them with Lawyers. Really, SFI?

| 4/29/2013 2:17:00 PM

A phony logging industry “eco-certification” entity funded by Weyerhaeuser, Plum Creek, International Paper, Sierra Pacific and other US logging companies attempted last week to bully ForestEthics into silence.

Sorry, SFI (the so-called Sustainable Forestry Initiative), we’re not going to stop talking about your greenwashing of clearcuts, chemical spraying, and logging of endangered forest areas that you “certify” as “good for forests.” We call ‘em like we see them, and SFI’s claim that it’s an “independent nonprofit public charity” protecting forests with scientifically-credible standards is a lie.

Don’t get me wrong, SFI has plenty to be upset about. Weyerhaeuser, Plum Creek and many others have spent tens of millions of dollars creating and funding the SFI program to label the paper and wood they sell from destroyed forests as “sustainable.”  SFI sells itself as an “eco-label” that unsuspecting companies use to indicate to their employees and customers that the wood and paper they use or sell is responsibly harvested from forests. It was working–they tricked a lot of companies into thinking the label meant something special. Just in the last two years, however, over 20 major companies, including Energizer Batteries, Office Depot, AT&T and Allstate Insurance, have begun moving away from using the SFI label.

The solution for SFI is to radically change its approach, not use lawyers to try to silence its critics. And the organizations critical of SFI go way beyond ForestEthics to include many of the biggest names in the environmental movement: Sierra Club, NRDC, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace.

But bullies want to bully, and SFI’s lawyers demanded that ForestEthics “cease and desist” from calling out SFI. For example, SFI objected when we said that the SFI was “owned and operated” by some of the biggest names in the logging industry. ForestEthics said this in an email to our supporters–an imprecise communication medium to say the least.

What’s SFI’s point? The program is birthed by logging companies and the primary logging industry trade association, and almost entirely funded by SFI’s “participants” (93% and possibly more of its annual budget). Yet SFI says they are technically a non-profit so technically no one “owns” a non-profit, therefore they have no “owners.”  Really?

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