The SFI program holds their annual conference in two weeks. Montreal is conveniently located for me, and I have learned over the years the value of personal interaction and face-to-face networking. I look forward to seeing many friends, colleagues, and readers. If you are attending, please let me know, or make a point to look me up and say hello.
The SFI program deserves a lot of credit for hosting these events every year. For those of us in the North American SFM certification business, it remains the only, consistent gathering of its type.
Another reason to attend this year’s SFI Conference is to interact with the folks who will be making the final decisions on the important revision to the SFI standard that is due later this year.
I wrote extensively on the SFI review process earlier this year. But I understand that most of my readers are busy folks who have trouble keeping up with the blizzard of confounding details that SFI, FSC, and PEFC have been producing lately. I thought it would be helpful to provide a summary to bring everyone up to date.
SFI Forest Management (FM) and Wood Procurement Standard (Section 2)
The “main” part of the SFI program standard is found in Section 2 of their consolidated standards document. It contains requirements for companies who own and manage land (Objectives 1-7); requirements for companies who purchase roundwood on the open market (Objectives 8-13); and requirements that apply to all “primary producers”.
Bottom Line: MixedWood considers SFIS Section 2 to be the best part of the SFI program. The FM requirements (in spite of endless harping from critics) are credible and rigorous in application and compare favorably with the FSC program. The “Certified Sourcing” requirements (Obj. 8-13) remain misunderstood and under-applied, and unappreciated.
SFI Chain of Custody Standard (Section 3)
SFI’s version of the standard traceability, or Chain of Custody (CoC), standard is found in Section 3. It is – by a considerable margin – the most widely implemented of SFI’s certification standards. Significantly, it is no longer recognized by the affiliated PEFC program.
Bottom Line: SFI’s CoC standard is easy to implement, but in real danger of becoming irrelevant. The latest draft updates failed to clear up a lot of sloppy, and confusing language. Resolving the unacceptable discrepancy with PEFC should be top priority for SFI in the new version.
SFI Certified Sourcing & Label Use Standard (Section 4)
This is the least understood part of the SFI program – consisting of an ill-defined product certification standard, ‘hidden’ in the language of their document for label use. The Certified Sourcing (CS) standard is less commonly implemented than CoC, the the CS product claim is by far the most common one seen in wood and paper markets.
Bottom Line: SFI’s treatment of Certified Sourcing in Section 4 has been an embarrassment for years. The latest draft updates failed to acknowledge the serious structural problem in the standard. Significant re-structuring is still required to ensure the program remains credible.
What about PEFC?
During the active standard review process last winter, I approached several of the SFI staff to inquire about whether they were in active discussion with the PEFC program to resolve the awkward discrepancy between the programs. I was distressed to learn that there was, at that time, little interest in working on this. I am hoping that this may have changed in the last 6 months.