In my blog on Better Ingredients, an associate questioned my bias and support for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. I, as do we all, have biases. Giving preference to FSC is one of them, and I’m glad that I was “called out” on it. Do I think that FSC is perfect? No. Is it possible for me to support other certification schemes? If they meet stringent, authentic, transparent and comprehensive standards, yes. The following are some of my reasons for supporting FSC:

  1. FSC does not allow genetically-modified (GMO) trees to be certified.
  2. FSC has a transparent and participatory process wherein anyone can join their economic, environmental, or social “chambers,” and each chamber elects an equal number of representatives to the FSC board.
  3. Each independent analysis that I’ve reviewed comparing FSC to other certification schemes demonstrates a preference for FSC. There is a helpful chart comparing the various certification schemes on pages 18 and 19 of World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Global Forest and Trade Network publication, Keep It Legal.

I’ve kept this blog short and simple, but I do recognize the complexity of the issue. Standards are evaluated frequently and I give credit to certification schemes like FSC and SFI for continually improving. However, at the end of this day, I still give preference to FSC. I won’t claim to be the best expert on this so I’ve invited representatives from competing US certification bodies FSC-US and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) to make their case themselves. I have let them each see this blog in advance so that they can respond to any of my comments.

Form your own opinion by reading directly from FSC and SFI why they feel their certification schemes are preferable. I hope you engage in a dialogue by posting comments and questions below!

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Comment by Frank Locantore on July 28, 2009 at 2:10pm
Hi "Brand" -
That's an interesting point. Yes, using recycled paper is definitely "greener" than virgin fiber paper across all metrics (though, unfortunately there are paper companies that don't make recycled paper attempting to confuse that fact). Certification for recycled paper happens by the FSC in addition to their certification of virgin fiber. Also, I believe that in addition to the Chlorine-Free Products Association (CFPA) certifying that mills use "chlorine-free" bleaching processes, they also require that the product contain at least 30% pcw and requires documentation for how the mill determined the post-consumer content. I'll ask Archie Beaton to comment on this as well.

Finally, the FTC is looking at "green claims" companies make and considering stronger standards. Currently, in order to use the "chasing arrows" symbol (three arrows circling - the typical recycling symbol) 100% of the paper must be recycled content. If it is not, then it must state the exact percentage underneath.
Comment by Talk2theBrand on July 28, 2009 at 8:01am
It seems to me all these certifications center on the practice of cutting down trees. Is there a certification process for sourcing recycled paper? Wouldn't that be even greener in many respects than cutting down forests?
Comment by Pat Berger on July 20, 2009 at 9:41am
I have been looking at the certification programs for years and do think that they are beneficial. The big part I have a problem with is the multiple certifications in the the chain, forest, paper or wood product manufacturer,distributor, users(printing, furniture, and so on). Each of these certification levels has a carbon footprint and if you add up them all up it's to the point that it exceeds what is saved by using the certification process.

The carbon footprint consist of the certifying body and all of there facilities and personnel, forest companies employes doing the certification, paper and wood products employes doing the certification, distributor employes doing the certification, print and or other users employes doing the certifications. There are thousand of man hours along with transportation ,computer timer, continuous record keeping along with and an auditor and all of his time and transportation for each level of certification.

I think that once the forest company and the paper wood products manufacturers are certified all the other certifications are hype and contribute nothing except for running up a huge carbon footprint that hurts all of us.
Comment by Joshua Martin on February 4, 2009 at 2:48pm
Thanks for putting this together Frank. Its an important discussion. I'm looking forward to reading them both.

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