Certifying wood products began in the early nineties as an effort to identify and promote materials produced by ecologically reputable companies. Acme Lumber might sell plywood ten miles away that looks just like what they have on shelves at the Home Depot, but the product at Home Depot costs a little more and has a stamp on it that says, FSC Certified.
Well, who is the FSC? What exactly do they certify? And are they connected in any way to the SFI or the CSA? Are they BFFs?
FSC stands for the Forest Stewardship Council, and according to an article by the National Wood Flooring Association, the FSC is the most recognized of the three major certification program sponsors. The others are the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI), and the Canadian Standards Association.
All three support programs to maintain forestry stewardship standards within the industry, but FSC was developed first and has garnered the support of most of the major environmental organizations, including The World Wildlife Fund and Sierra Club. And while the FSC is the governing body for the certification standards, it is necessary that they contract with third-party auditors and site examiners like Smartwood and Scientific Certification Systems.
The SFI organization got its origins in 1994 from the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), a group that seeks to maintain standards in the paper industry. The Initiative is mandatory for members of the AF&PA, and is regulated by the Sustainable Forestry Board (SFB).
In Canada, the Canadian Standards Association provides certification and standards testing on wood products all over the world, and is responsible for the National Standard for Sustainable Forest Management of Canada.
As you can tell, each organization is committed to the same end: creating and maintaining sustainable forest land. Sustainable Forestry refers to sustained yields combined with efforts to maintain biodiversity within forest ecosystems.
Critics of the standards systems say that they represent significant disparities in the way they evaluate such important issues as clear-cutting, pesticides, and use of old growth trees. But others say that the systems are basically the same, and that any differences are purely political.
Either way you look at it, consumers have a clear-cut choice to make: pay more for the certified product, or pay less for less certainty about the way the wood product was made.
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