SFI pushes back against LEED standard


The debate between the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) (which we last wrote about here) has been pretty lopsided lately. Everyone from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the state of Maine has made decisions recently that benefit SFI.

But this month is a reminder that after years of effort, wood from SFI-certified forests is still not recognized by the LEED building standard. The new draft LEED standards that were released last week continue to shut out SFI-certified wood.

Fortunately, SFI is not taking the news lying down. The U.S. Green Building Council, which administers the LEED program, is taking public comment on the new standards until March 20. SFI is aggressively lobbying its supporters to tell LEED to open up its standards, and anyone who cares about working forests should consider giving their two cents. Go here to comment online.

The new LEED standards even include language that allows credits only for certified wood that is “FSC or better.”

“This new language raises more issues than it resolves: Who will decide what is ‘better than FSC’ and on what basis?” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of Sustainable Forestry Initiative. “SFI clearly has requirements that are not matched by FSC varying standards around the world.  This fact continues to go unrecognized by the USGBC, despite the fact that governors, congressmen, and 6,000 individuals have urged the USGBC not to turn its back on North American forests and recognize all forest certification standards.”

Besides issuing a press release this week, SFI is also writing regularly about the problems with LEED on the SFI blog, Good for Forests. Expect a lot more posts leading up to the end of the public comment period on March 20 about how “SFI goes beyond and above the uneven nature of FSC’s varied standards and how SFI focuses on things that matter here at home, such as research, logger training and landowner outreach,” Abusow said.

The Green Building Council’s decision “to put up artificial barriers” against SFI and other certifications shuts out 75 percent of North America’s certified forests from the LEED standard, Abusow said on the SFI blog.

The decisions USGBC makes today about green building and certification will affect our forests and our communities well into the future. By refusing to be inclusive like other green building rating tools, it diminishes the value of certification and that diminishes the value of our forests.