A new report by ForestEthics uncovers the Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s (SFI) industry-sponsored greenwashing to market wood and paper products. Titled SFI: Certified Greenwash, the report highlights how the SFI serves the interests of the timber, paper, and forest products industries. Its centerpiece is a two-page infographic depicting the web of influence through which industry dominates SFI.
“Greenwash is deception pure and simple,” said Aaron Sanger. “Our report exposes SFI’s greenwash, an industry-sponsored scam that threatens our forests, communities, fresh water and wildlife.”
Among the findings of the report are:
• Virtually all of SFI’s funding comes from the paper and timber industries; • SFI’s most commonly used label, the Fiber Sourcing label, requires no chain-of-custody tracking of a product’s content or origins; • Out of 543 audits of SFI-certified companies since 2004, not one acknowledges any major problem on issues—such as soil erosion, clearcutting, water quality, or chemical usage—that should be the focus of a ‘sustainable forestry’ program; • In one case, the SFI audit team—which included only two auditors—spent just five days assessing an area larger than the entire state of Pennsylvania. They reported no violations of SFI standards and didn’t identify so much as a single opportunity for improvement; • Board members representing SFI’s environmental and social sectors include Mike Zagata, former NY Gov. Pataki’s “most controversial agency head”, and Marvin Brown, who this October resigned as Oregon state forester amid accusations that his department conducted and tolerated environmentally-harmful forestry practices.
The report comes out as the green building sector makes its annual pilgrimage to Greenbuild, the world’s largest green building conference, held in Chicago this year. Last year, Greenbuild attendees in Phoenix witnessed a balloon banner floating over SFI’s booth that said “SFI = Greenwash”, as well as a full-page ad in the local edition of USA Today, which said that SFI’s name “belies its greenwashing practices of certifying ‘destruction as usual’ logging.”
In March, ForestEthics mailed letters to Fortune 500 companies that rely heavily on direct mail to market their products and services, including companies from the insurance, financial services and telecommunications sectors. Citing public controversy about SFI’s deceptive ‘green’ marketing practices, the letters offer ForestEthics’ expertise to help companies find legitimate ways to improve and promote the environmental attributes of their products.
In September of last year, ForestEthics filed legal complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that became the focus of an article in The New York Times.
The FTC complaint described how SFI, funded and managed primarily by large logging companies, gives a ‘green’ seal of approval to destructive logging practices of these same companies. The IRS complaint focused on how SFI’s funding and activities serve the private interests of the paper and timber industries, an improper purpose for an organization with the same nonprofit status that the IRS gives to public charities.