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Oct 5, 2011

FSC vs. SFI - What's the difference?

By KC

People often ask us about the differences between wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and wood certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

The line between the two, for many consumers, is fuzzy, and LEED 2012 appears to be on the verge of accepting SFI wood, whereas in the past only FSC was acceptable.

But there are stark differences, and a side-by-side comparison of the two standards can help us remember why we prefer FSC, and why our ultimate goal is to promote the use of wood that meets or exceeds FSC standards.

Some of the biggest differences:

  • FSC prohibits the use of genetically-modified organisms; SFI allows their use
  • FSC prohibits the use of persistent and/or bioaccumulative pesticides; SFI recommends "prudent" use of pesticides
  • FSC prohibits the conversion of natural forest to plantations; SFI allows that conversion and the certification of wood from those forests
  • FSC's standards were developed by a broad range of stakeholders, including environmental and human rights activists and forest products representatives; SFI was developed exclusively by the forest products industries
  • FSC's audit results are made public and can be appealed; SFI's audit results are private and cannot be appealed

UPDATE 8/16/2013:  This well-researched Portland Tribune article explores the differences in detail.  A great read for anyone looking for more information about FSC vs. SFI.

Here are some interesting tidbits to help clarify things:

Seven More Brands Distance Themselves from 'Sustainable Forestry Initiative' (Forestethics.com)
A Picture Is Worth: FSC vs SFI Forests
(Treehugger.com)
A Comparison of the American Forest & Paper Association’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council’s Certification System (Yale University; PDF)

Category: Wood Q&A

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