What is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative?

Sustainable Forestry Initiative

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) has a robust set of forest certification standards that enable forest managers in the United States and Canada to demonstrate that they are measuring quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, species at risk, forest conservation value, forest fiber content, and forest product traceability. This certification is important because it enables consumers to ensure that they’re purchasing paper products from responsibly managed forests. Yay, trees!

Is The Sustainable Forestry Initiative Regulated?

Yes. Although the SFI is not government-regulated, it maintains strict guidelines and processes that governments, brand owners, and universities often oversee. 

How does the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Work?

The SFI system is designed to recognize outstanding achievements in responsible sourcing of paper products for companies, organizations, and institutions through neutral, third-party evaluations. This certification process includes an application, audit proposal, two on-site audits, and an ultimate certification decision. The SFI is also committed to promoting forest-focused collaborations rooted in recognition and respect for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and traditional knowledge, as well as conservation.

The SFI certification, on a larger scale, promotes greater efficiency in using resources from forests through recognition of such certification and serves consumers’ demands for sustainably produced forest products. 

What kind of products are certified by The Sustainable Forestry Initiative?

The SFI certifies products made from tree fibers, wood, and pulp, such as paper, tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, and virtually any product containing ingredients that can be traced back to a forest. 

So… is a company “good” if it is certified by The Sustainable Forestry Initiative?

Debates remain on whether or not the SFI increases standards in environmental, social, or economic practices, and if it is worth the cost of the evaluation and certification process. Some argue that this certification program only draws previously high performers in sustainable forestry initiatives and does not have nearly enough requirements, while others argue that the process is too strenuous and turns away potential companies, organizations, or institutions from pursuing certification. Critics also argue that the SFI misleads consumers with irresponsible, or sometimes illegal logging practices and that it has a lackluster certification system. 

It is also hard to evaluate the direct impacts of certification. For example, an evaluation may require an on-grounds look at the site, which is expensive and time-consuming. While most studies on SFI certification have concluded that it is beneficial in regulating sustainable sourcing of tree products, we should keep in mind that this level of certification is only a foundation for a company or organization’s efforts in sustainability. 

TLDR: The SFI certification is “good” in that it helps to regulate sustainable sourcing of tree products and promotes greater efficiency in using resources from forests, but it’s not a silver bullet solution in sustainable forestry! 

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