SFI's Statement on the USGBC's Fourth Draft Forest Certification Benchmarks

SFI’s Statement on the USGBC’s Fourth Draft Forest Certification Benchmarks

June 15, 2010

World’s Largest Certification Standard Continues to Urge the U.S. Green Building Council to Support  North America’s Forests


The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has released for public comment a 4th round of draft benchmarks to evaluate forest certification programs.  The Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) – the world’s largest single forest certification standard – continues to urge the USGBC to end a forest certification policy that discriminates against North American forests and against almost all of the independent forest certification standards used in the United States and Canada.

 There are few substantial changes between the 3rd round of benchmarks and the 4th round of benchmarks.  The 81 benchmarks as currently drafted remain overly detailed and complex.  In many instances, benchmarks are vague and will require further interpretation on the intent.  It’s worth noting no other building material has to go through this level of scrutiny for just one point.

“SFI is a globally recognized, science based forest certification program with a variety of conservation and community partners,” said SFI President and CEO Kathy Abusow. “As the USGBC continues to court a half decade long process to figure out wood and the forest certification credits, the rest of the world has long moved on and get it already – wood is a sound and responsible building material and forest certification is an added proof point that forests are well managed.”

The USGBC benchmark development process, which officially began in 2005, may result in the continued exclusion of independent forest certification standards used in North America, including SFI, the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), the Canadian Standards Association’s (CSA) Sustainable Forest Management Standard, and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC).  With close to 200 million acres (81 million hectares) certified to the SFI Standard in North America, and another 183 million more acres (74million hectares) certified to CSA and ATFS combined, more than three quarters of the certified fiber in North America is not recognized by LEED’s certified wood credit.  Excluding these programs means excluding responsibly-managed, third-party certified forests and the communities and jobs that depend on them in the United States and Canada.

“SFI has cautioned the USGBC that a process like the one currently proposed could result in never ending revisions, assessments and evaluations year after year with no clear results.” said Kathy Abusow, “It is time for USGBC’s leadership to move on and give credit for wood use and forest certification standards. That is what SFI says, what government agencies say, and what professional foresters and their societies and institutes believe.”

“The SFI community strongly supports green building and we believe SFI and other credible certification programs are a clear fit for green building rating systems.” said Jason Metnick, SFI Senior Director of Market Access and Product Labeling, “Wood from responsibly-managed forests, like those certified to the SFI Standard, is an excellent choice for any new construction or renovation.  Wood is renewable, it sequesters carbon and it is powered by solar energy; these factors, coupled with wood’s desirable aesthetic and structural characteristics, make it good for green building.  However, the USGBC continues to fall short when recognizing the true merits of wood.”

Support for recognition of multiple forest certification standards is strong and broad.   

More than 5,700 forestry experts, architects, builders, government officials, conservationists and many others have urged the USGBC to recognize all credible forest certification standards by signing SFI’s online petition. Many more have sent letters directly to the USGBC to voice concern, including representatives of the US and Canadian Government.

  • Nine U.S. Governors – representing Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, and Washington – have written letters to the USGBC to voice their concerns over the current approach to wood product certification.  The Chairs of both the Senate and House of Representative Agricultural Committees have also written letters.  So have six additional US representatives from both sides of the aisle.
  • The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers as well as individual provincial ministers have written letters to the USGBC to show their support for all credible forest certification standards.

 

 Forestry Experts Clearly Support Credible Certification Standards and Offer a Path Forward.

 Forestry Experts from Canada and the US also agree LEED should be opened to all credible forest certification standards.  The Canadian Institute of Forestry penned a letter to the USGBC voicing concern, and in the US, a 2008 resolution from the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) stated that requirements for certification should recognize ATFS, FSC, SFI, and all other credible options.  The resolution goes on to state that “there is no single ‘best’ forest certification program.”

NASF also proposed criteria they believe constitute a credible forest certification program; we encourage USGBC to use these simple and straightforward criteria developed by forestry experts.

  1. Independent Governance – The governance body should include economic, environmental, and social interests and operate independently from participants and compliance verifiers or auditors
  2. Multi-Stakeholder Standard – A diverse group representing forestry, wildlife, conservation, industry, government, and academic expertise should establish an objective Standard for sustainable forestry with specific performance measures.
  3. Independent Certification – Certification requires verifying compliance with the Standard during full certification and periodic surveillance audits. This should be accomplished by independent, qualified, and accredited third-party auditors. Auditors should meet professional standards established by an independent accreditation body such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
  4. Credible Complaints & Appeals Process – There should be a clear process for credibly responding to on-the-ground compliance concerns or certification challenges.
  5. Open Participation and Transparency – Public and private sector landowners, including family forest owners, should have access to any forest certification program for which they qualify.


International Due Diligence from Governments and Numerous Green Building Rating Systems Reveal Consistent Approach to Forest Certification.

The Central Expertise Point of Trade (CEPT) in the United Kingdom has also recognized all credible forest certification programs.  This is a process similar to USGBC where the UK Government set benchmarks for wood and paper products sold into the United Kingdom, and then assessed the different standards.  This process concluded SFI along with FSC, CSA and PEFC meet the criteria for the UK Government.

Numerous green building rating systems around the globe have recognized all credible forest certification programs in their rating systems.  This includes ANSI/ICC 700-2008 National Green Building Standard, ANSI/GBI Green Building Assessment Protocol for Commercial Buildings, Built Green Canada, CASBEE in Japan, BREEAM in the United Kingdom and the Australian Green Building Council’s Green Star Program.  Furthermore, we are now seeing green building codes recognize all credible forest certification programs, including the draft International Green Construction Code (IgCC) and ASHRE 189.1.

 “Whether it is ANSI standards in the USA or green building standards in Canada, the UK, Japan or Australia, you’ll find consistent recognition of wood and the importance of forest certification standards, which is especially critical since just 10% of the world’s forests are certified to any standard,” continued Metnick.

 “It’s time for the USGBC to sunset this lethargic benchmark process , and once and for all recognize all credible forest certification programs like SFI, FSC, CSA, ATFS and PEFC,” concluded Kathy Abusow.

 Additional information:

  • Elected officials, government agencies, professional foresters and other stakeholders across North America have voiced concern over exclusive forest certification policies in green building rating tools.  These quotes and statements are available on our website here.
  • Read our March 2010 statement here.
  • Download our Fact Sheet on SFI and Green Building here.
  • Watch our video clip on the USGBC, green building and forest certification here.

For information on how you can make a difference during the USGBC’s benchmark process, contact Jason Metnick or Nadine Block.