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SFI – Active from forests to green building markets

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WMC by Richard Lipman
Richard Lipman is president of the Wood Manufacturing Council. For more info email
I had an interesting opportunity recently to attend a presentation by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), to a group in the hardwood industry.  
The activities that SFI is involved with are varied and relevant, and reach from the forest to training to certified wood products and LEED. As value-added wood producers and their customers are keenly concerned about environmental and green certification issues, some of these activities are interesting to know about.  
SFI is committed to ensuring that well-managed forests achieve their full potential to lift people up and improve our shared quality of life. SFI is a sustainability leader dedicated to the future of our forests, providing supply chain assurance and conservation leadership as well as education and community engagement. The SFI board of directors is structured to ensure many perspectives and it has representatives from economic (Stuwix Resources Ltd.), environmental (Ducks Unlimited Canada) and social organizations (Habitat for Humanity Canada) amongst its constituents.

SFI certification represents a real commitment by participants to meet rigorous standards and account for their performance through third-party audits. Only when standard requirements are met does an organization earn the right to use the SFI label on its products. They mentioned that 21 per cent of all Fortune 
100 Companies used the 
SFI label in 2017 and the 
trend toward recognizing all forest certification standards 
is on the rise. 
The organization’s standards are a proof point for environmental stewardship and sustainable forestry. They include the SFI Forest Management Standard, the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard and the SFI Chain-of-Custody Standard. The community is comprised of 34 provincial, state and regional SFI implementation committees. This diverse grassroots network includes private landowners, independent loggers, forestry professionals, indigenous people, local government agencies, academics, scientists and conservationists. It allows the program to respond to local needs and issues throughout North America.  
Last April it was announced that 92 secondary wood products manufacturers earned SFI chain of custody certification at the same time, through the Wood Products Manufacturers Association.  Philip Bibeau, executive director of WPMA said, “Architects and builders want assurances that their buying decisions are sound environmental choices. Using hardwood products certified to the SFI standard is a 
way for our members to supply the products to their customers that are required to earn the LEED credits architects are seeking as a part of today’s green initiative. Certification to the SFI Chain-of-Custody Standard gives our members added credibility with those customers.”  
This was the single biggest group certifying to SFI’s Chain of Custody Standard at once.  

SFI also offers a certificate database, which provides people with access to forest products and suppliers that will help simplify purchasing decisions and demonstrates corporate social responsibility. Users can, amongst other things, identify organizations with SFI-certified lands, see how much land is certified to the SFI forest management standard, search companies by certificate number, and look for wood building and paper, print and packaging products.
A new path for SFI Certified Products in LEED was created in April 2016, when the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) issued an Alternative Compliance Path (ACP) for LEED credits that recognizes wood from SFI.  Rick Fedrizzi, former CEO of the USGBC said “this new path to LEED credit recognizes the contributions forest certification standards have made in establishing the infrastructure to verify responsible sourcing.”

An Alternative Compliance Path allows LEED projects to achieve an existing green building credit, using an alternative approach to what is specified in the existing rating tool. An ACP pilot is used to test and work out any kinks with the new pathway. The ACP is available for use and can earn LEED credits today. The ACP applies to all LEED v.4 and LEED 2009 systems, including building design and construction, interior design and construction, existing building - operations and maintenance and homes. The Canadian Green Building Council approved a Credit Interpretation Request (CIR) in November 2016. This means the same ACP in the U.S. applies to all the same LEED rating tools in Canada. The LEED ACP takes a stance against illegal wood and reinforces the value of certified forests, responsible sourcing and chain of custody for forest products. It gives architects and builders much greater access to renewable forest products and requires architects, builders and consumers to verify the legality of forest products used in LEED buildings. It awards credit for the use of wood and paper products certified to the SFI, American Tree Farm System, Canadian Standards Association, and the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification standards.  
SFI has a Small-Scale Forest Management Module for indigenous people, families and communities, which only applies in Canada. It is designed for landowners and managers in Canada that want a solution for group or individual certification. The Fiber Sourcing Standard offers a proactive approach that promotes responsible forestry practices on non-certified land and requires the responsible procurement of fiber-no matter where it comes from. It addresses the entire supply chain, not just a product line and SFI is the only standard that demands this. Ten million family forest owners in the United States supply 60% or more of the fiber used by industry - most are not certified. In Canada, family forest owners in many regions provide a significant share of the fiber used by industry, the overwhelming majority is not certified. Small landowner certification is a cost constraint for families that only harvest perhaps once or twice in a lifetime. SFI Chain of Custody Standard is an accounting system that tracks forest fiber content though production and manufacturing to the end product. All SFI standards are audited by accredited 3rd party certification bodies, like KPMG, Bureau de normalization du Quebec and PWC.

SFI was developed in North America with those unique landscapes in mind. In terms of millions of hectares (2017), SFI has the greatest amount of certified forest in Canada and the U.S. (combined), when compared with other certification standards. It helps demonstrate responsible forestry and is a cornerstone of green building, promoting responsible forestry through green building programs.  This is an organization we should be aware of and follow as it increases its activities and outreach.

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