Does the SFI EcoLabel Approve Forest Destruction?

I recently attended Eugene, Oregon's famous environmental law conference. In the entryway on the bottom floor of the building where the conference sessions were being held, there were a series of environmental organizational tables including TarSands Blockade, which is using non-violent direct action to stop the construction of KeyStone XL, and Forest Ethics, a national non-profit working to protect our forests. A giant banner hanging above the Forest Ethics table caught my eye. It said, "SFI: Certified Greenwash".

SFI Greenwashing

At PosiPair, a big part of our mission is to wipe out greenwashing, especially in the certification industry. I went over to the table and  asked Jim Ace, the Stop SFI Greenwash Senior Campaigner, why Forest Ethics has a campaign to stop the SFI eco-label. Ace told me that "the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) label is a huge industry scam that should be avoided at all costs." Wow, if this is true lots of responsible, unsuspecting people are being duped. Could you be one of them?

Ace told me that the SFI was created in 1994 by the paper and timber industry for the benefit of the paper and timber industry. Specifically, it is an outgrowth of the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA), the primary trade association for the $175 billion US paper and timber products sector. Apparently, all of SFI's funding comes from the paper and timber industry, severely compromising SFI’s independence.

"The SFI puts its greenwash label on wood and paper products connected with chopping down the oldest trees we have left, cutting down patches of forest the size of 90 football fields, the aerial spraying of toxic chemicals on communities, polluting waterways, spurring landslides, and threatening rare wildlife. This greenwashed eco-label is bought and paid for by the very industry that it is supposed to be regulating." said Ace.

According to Forest Ethics, harmful practices allowed by the SFI and/or used by SFI approved companies include:

  • Widespread cutting down of irreplaceable old growth forests and other endangered forests
  • Converting natural forests into industrial tree plantations that are not ecologically healthy
  • Clearcutting, road construction, and other operations harmful to water quality
  • Use of genetically modified trees
  • Violating the rights of workers, communities, and indigenous peoples

Forest Ethics is calling on consumers (that's us) to sign a petition to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), demanding that the FTC follow their own Green Guides and crack down on the SFI. You can sign join thousands of others by signing here:

Click here of a link to photo essay of clear cutting that has been SFI certified:
Click here for a link to a Forest Ethics report of SFI Greenwashing:
Link to donate to the cause:

The misleading claims by the SFI label undermine the hard work and smart choices of business people who make genuine efforts to be environmentally responsible. The Forest Ethics Paper Campaign is working to help companies use forest friendly paper. And Forest Ethics works with companies to educate them about the risks of greenwashing to their brands, as well as to our forests, water and communities.

I contacted SFI for a response, and here's their reply:

Thanks for your note and taking the time to check in with us for the facts about the Sustainable Forestry Initiative program. The FE claims are not true and are part of a misinformation campaign. I responded to your specific points below with quick links to facts about our rigorous, third-party audited standard.

Yes, SFI was started by the forestry industry but is now a fully independent nonprofit governed by three chambers equally (economic, social/community and environmental). In addition, the SFI standard is overseen by an independent External Review Panel.

Independent Governance:

SFI Board represents environmental, social/community and economic chambers:

Third-Party Audited Certification:
See companies’ audit reports:

Experts and government agencies widely support SFI:

Continuous. Science-based improvement:

Best regards,
Monique Hanis
VP Marketing and Communications & COO


The only thing I’d add is this fact sheet on setting the record straight. As Monique points out, ForestEthics is a group that is interested in undermining SFI to promote the other certification standard in the marketplace FSC.

Jason Metnick
Vice President, Customer Affairs

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