Conservation at SFI

Promoting Conservation Through Daily Acts of Responsible Forest Management 

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Inc. is the only forest certification program in North America that requires participants to support research to improve forest health, conservation understanding, productivity and sustainable management of forest resources.

SFI advances conservation objectives in forests throughout North America through the values expressed in our standards, through carefully targeted research, through direct leadership of critical initiatives, and through partnerships that effectively contribute to multiple conservation objectives.

Research initiatives, whether developed directly through SFI or SFI Program Participants, advance our collective interests in clean water, biological diversity, climate change, forest health and sustainable forestry, making a real difference in practices implemented on the ground.

SFI has initiated a specifically targeted research effort to evaluate, distill and convey the conservation-related attributes of SFI’s forest certification work. This effort, called “Conservation Impact,” will help conservationists understand the values associated with sustainable management, and provide assurance to stakeholders throughout the forest supply chain.


SFI Conservation Leadership

SFI provides leadership in the conservation community by playing a critical role at the intersection of sustainable forestry and conservation planning and accomplishment.

Examples include:

  • All Lands and Large Ownerships Workshops – A collaborative effort to advance the attainment of landscape-scale conservation goals by ensuring the engagement of
large private landowners. By bringing together large landowners, conservationists, agencies and
academics, SFI and its partners will help to achieve the vision of “all lands” conservation.
  • SFI-led symposia and workshops, at venues from the Land Trust Alliance National Rally NatureServe Biodiversity Without Boundaries conference, help promote the importance 
of responsibly managed forests to critical conservation goals. SFI has presented on the role of well-managed forests in landscape conservation, the use of SFI certification standards to efficiently monitor conservation easements, and the use of species and community data by forest managers to protect biodiversity at multiple scales. 

  • Working with the American Bird Conservancy, SFI is facilitating collaboration between several of America’s largest landowners to reverse the loss of at-risk bird species across the continent. By focusing at the intersection of key geographies and large managed ownerships, ABC is collaboratively developing strategies to “Bring Back the Forest Birds,” affecting change at an unprecedented scale. 

  • In 2016, SFI participated in the organizing committee for the 16th North American Caribou Workshop held in Thunder Bay, Ontario, helping to ensure
 a variety of perspectives were brought to bear on the future management of this keystone species of the Canadian boreal forest. 


SFI Conservation Impact Overview

To facilitate good decision-making, and to help make the case for the value of sustainability, SFI is working to quantify the conservation benefits of its work, and the connection between sustainable supply chains and important conservation outcomes. By clarifying these conservation attributes, SFI will help make the link between well-managed forests and the public benefits that affect each of us every day.

The incentives to measure conservation values are diverse: brand owners seek to understand the impact of their sourcing; conservation stakeholders can engage more effectively if they understand the values that certification can provide; and improved tracking will better equip SFI to provide sustainability related metrics, and contribute meaningfully to conservation outcomes.

Developing metrics to assess conservation values across the 280 million acre/113 million hectare footprint of lands certified to SFI will be complex, so SFI consulted key stakeholders to narrow the focus. 


SFI is Focusing on Three Areas

SFI will engage directly with uniquely qualified research institutions, and additionally utilize its Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant Program to attract creative approaches to quantify conservation impact.

The project was initiated in 2016, and will continue for several years, with continued refinement of questions and data, and engagement of a wide range of stakeholders.
For guidance on this work, SFI has convened a diverse group of scientists, drawn from academia, public agencies, the non-profit conservation community, SFI Program Participants and SFI leadership.
This sounding board will help ensure credibility and transparency, and provide direct input into project development.


SFI’s Program Participants engage in a tremendous array of projects every day that help conserve the diversity of habitats, water quality and other important aspects of North America’s great natural heritage.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES: Program Participants regularly support projects to ensure the conservation of heritage and cultural features important to Indigenous peoples of North America, ranging from Caddo Indian structures in Texas to culturally modified trees on lands of the Heiltsuk Nation in the Pacific Northwest.

FROM LONGLEAF TO STEELHEAD: In 2015, Program Participants reported dozens of projects which help advance restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem, through planting, prescribed burning and understory habitat restoration. Iconic in the US South, the longleaf ecosystem is home to over 1,000 plant and animal species. A number of other projects support management, research and restoration of anadromous fish on both North American coasts, like steelhead and salmon, which require carefully managed forests upstream for their survival. These projects include efforts to ensure fish passage at stream crossings, and measures to provide compatible stream temperature and conditions in managed forests.

SUPPORT RESEARCH: SFI is the only forest certification program that requires participants to
support research to improve forest health, conservation understanding, productivity and sustainable management of forest resources. Since 1995, these investments have exceeded $1.6 billion. In 2015, SFI’s unique research requirements resulted in $57 million in direct investments by SFI Program Participants, with nearly 75% linked to conservation-related objectives.

CLEAN WATER: Well-managed forests certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard contribute and protect clean water sources for both wildlife and people. A 2015 study by the National Association of State Foresters confirmed the important contribution of SFI to advancing training and other practices that protect water quality.