Fight the FSC monopoly


The debate over forest certification is one of the most important stories for today’s timber industry.  As we’ve followed closely the last few months, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is in the process of updating its widely accepted LEED green building standard. As it is now, LEED only accepts forest products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and many environmental groups are lobbying to keep it that way.

On the other side of the debate, many foresters, elected officials and timber industry leaders say that other certification systems should be accepted by the USGBC. Among these systems is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), an independent standard that has certified 181 million acres of forests in North America, far more than FSC.

The FSC-SFI debate has huge stakes for the timber industry. The USGBC’s LEED standard is increasingly popular as green building takes hold across the country, so if FSC continues to be the only forest certification allowed, then it could spell doom for the entire timber industry. FSC is just too expensive and onerous to follow for many forest landowners, while SFI has become the largest forest certification standard in the world.

The U.S. Green Building Council is taking public comments right now on the fourth round of proposed revisions to its LEED rating system. Comments are being taken here until July 4th. It’s critical that the USGBC hear from anyone who supports the idea that LEED should be accepting all reputable forest certification standards instead of an FSC monopoly.

SFI has been very active on this issue, as it should be. It just wrote Thursday about the public comment period on its Good For Forests blog, and nearly 6,000 people have already signed an online petition for the USGBC to open up its LEED rating to other certifications.

SFI has also released this illuminating fact sheet on why LEED should be opened up to other certifications.

Among the highlights:

  • Many governments accept SFI and other reputable certifications, including the U.S. General Services Administration, Canada’s public works program and the National Association of State Foresters. Many green building standards, like Green Globes, Built Green Canada and the UK’s BREEAM, also accept SFI.
  • The majority of FSC global timber supply comes from outside the U.S. and Canada. So if FSC continues to have a LEED monopoly, then builders may say no to domestic products certified by SFI and other standards and say yes to FSC-certified products, which have a much greater chance of being from overseas.

Again, the comment period ends on July 4th. Comment here, and let it be known that an FSC monopoly would be hugely damaging to the North American economy and the timber industry as we know it.