World Rainforest Movement

SFI: A certification scheme by the forestry industry for the forestry industry

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative – launched in 1995 by the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), the most powerful timber trade association in the world – covers an area over 40,485,830 ha in the United States and Canada. It is, in essence, a certification scheme by the forestry industry for the forestry industry. AF&PA member companies, including the largest loggers in the United States and Canada and the largest wholesale distributors of global wood products, account for 82% of the funds of SFI.

With its “cut a tree, plant a tree” model of forestry, SFI is making sure the logging industry sustains fiber flow but does nothing to sustain forest ecosystems and even allows convertion of forests to tree-farms.

Far from its standard’s 4.1.4 Objective which mandates to “manage the quality and distribution of wildlife habitats and contribute to the conservation of biological diversity, by developing and implementing stand-and landscape-level measures that promote habitat diversity and the conservation of forest plants and animals” the reality is quite different.

The temperate forests of the Southern U.S. are some of the most biologically rich forests in North America. These forests are under assault by companies that subscribe to SFI. Over the last 10 years, SFI member companies such as International Paper (IP) have expanded paper production in the Southern U.S. causing an acceleration of clearcutting and the conversion of diverse, native forests to single-species tree plantations.

In the Green Swamp – part of the Middle Atlantic Coastal Forest Ecoregion -, IP has converted an area of diverse, natural forested wetlands to a monoculture of pine plantation. The intensive management of these industrial tree plantations (ditching, draining, clearcutting and herbicide spraying) has significantly degraded the habitat of many species of plants and animals indigenous to this area such as the venus flytrap, pitcher plant, red cockaded woodpecker, and wacamaw killfish.

From 1997 to 2000 alone, it was estimated that approximately half a million pounds of herbicides – a variety of some 22 different brands and mixes – have been spread over the Coastal Plains of North Carolina including the Green Swamp. When inspectors with North Carolina’s Division of Water Quality investigated I.P.’s use of chemicals in the Green swamp they found that, “Based on this field work it appears that these herbicides are being widely used across this area without regard to the presence of ditches or permanently flooded wetlands. Based on these field observations, the DWQ believes that the spirit and the letter of EPA labels are not being followed and that these herbicides are being applied to surface water.” (July 13, 2000)

The US NGO Rainforest Action Network is leading a strong campaign to say “NO” to SFI, which – they say – “in the US has destroyed most of our old-growth forests; has pushed hundreds of fish, wildlife, and plant species to the brink of extinction; has damaged water quality; has turned biologically diverse native forests into monocultural tree farms, and is now recklessly experimenting with genetically-modified trees. Despite all this, the logging industry wants the public to buy wood with an ecolabel that they have given themselves. It is the fox guarding the henhouse. Loggers call it the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, or SFI. We call it the Same-old Forest Industry.”

Article base don information from: “Footprints in the forest. Current practice and future challenges in forest certification”, FERN, 2004;; “International Paper In The Southern U.S.”,; “Take Action”, RAN,