Forest management

A brief history of the sustainable forestry initiative in North America, from the European perspective. May 4, 2001

Reprinted with permission from Woodworking International.

A New Era For Forest Management
Members of the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) introduced a new era of forest management in the United States when they adopted, on 1 January 1996, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Since then, SFI has been transformed from a self-regulatory scheme to promote good forestry practice amongst AF&PA members, into an independent forest certification program open to all US forest owners. Progressive tightening of the environmental standards required under SFI, and the rapid expansion of SFI certified forests, has brought the program additional recognition amongst major wood consumers in North America. AF&PA is now taking steps to increase recognition of SFI in major export markets.

With over 29 million ha currently enrolled, SFI is the worlds largest sustainable forestry certification system and is by far the fastest growing SFM program in North America. In 1998, AF8 PA introduced a licensing scheme allowing non AF8 PA members to enrol in SFI. In 2000, the licensing program was extended into Canada. More than 6.8 million ha are now enrolled in the SFI licensing program, including conservation groups, U.S. state and county forestlands, foundations and industry and Crown lands in Canada. Amongst a
wide range of environmental commitments, SFI members are required to promptly reforest after harvesting; to implement state-approved Best Management Practices for forestry; to enhance the quality of wildlife habitat and contribute to biodiversity; and to minimize visual impact by designing harvests to blend into the terrain. Since its inception, all SFI program members have been required to issue an annual progress report to AF8 PA which is assessed by a team of independent experts. In response to growing market demands for independent certification of sustainable forestry, the SFI has also added a voluntary verification process. Companies now have the flexibility to conduct a self verification; have a customer or another company verify conformance (so- called 'second party verification'); or contract with an independent third-party to conduct the
certification. For the latter, independent certifiers are required to be accredited by a national standards body, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the American Standards and Testing Materials (ASTM), or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Over 12 million ha will be 3rd party certified to the SFI program standard by the end of 2000. Based on current commitments and certifications in progress, it is anticipated that over 22 million ha will have undergone 3rd party certification by the end of 2001.

In a move designed to further demonstrate SFI's independence, management of the scheme was turned over to a multi-stakeholder Sustainable Forestry Board (SFB) during 2000. The SFB is composed of 15 members, 60 percent of whom are from diverse interest groups including environmental/conservation organizations; public officials (state and/or federal agencies); professional/academic groups; logging professional; non-industrial landowners. The mission of the new SFB is to monitor and evaluate the
effectiveness of the SFI Standard and Verification Procedures; to upgrade these when required; and to work with the AF&PA Board to monitor and resolve any non-compliance issues.

The SFI program is also developing links with other certification schemes, both in the United States and overseas. Through the development of mutual recognition agreements, the SFI program is seeking to increase co-operation between forestry certification programs around the world, and to minimize the confusion that may arise from the marketing of numerous different environmental labels. In 2000, the SFI program mutually recognized the American Tree Farm Program(r) as a credible standard for sustainable forestry on smaller ownerships. Over 10 million ha are certified under the American Tree Farm System(r). AFLPA is an active member of the International Forest
Industry Roundtable which is currently working on the development of a single International Mutual Recognition Framework for credible forest certification schemes. In time this process may lead to the emergence of a single internationally accepted trademark and labeling scheme for sustainable forest products.

Moves to increase participation, and to develop procedures for third party certification, are already bringing SFl increased recognition amongst leading buying companies. Centex Homes, one of the United States largest homebuilders, and 84 Lumber, one of the largest wood retailers in the U.S. have both recently announced environmental purchasing policies giving preference to the SFI along with other credible forestry certification systems. As the SFI program continues to expand in North America, and with the development of international procedures for mutual recognition, the SFI logo may soon be a familiar sight to European consumers.

Reprinted with permission from Woodworking International. Subscription information is available at the WIN Website.