SFI takes Vancouver


There’s been a lot of attention lately on the EPA’s proposed biomass rules and the new proposed spotted owl plan, but one issue that is also still going strong is the fight to get the U.S. Green Building Council to consider other forest product certifications. Right now the USGBC only considers the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for the popular LEED green building standard.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the world’s largest forest certification program, held its annual conference in Vancouver, B.C., this week. And SFI President Kathy Abusow made some great points to attendees about why the U.S. Green Building Council is falling behind, rather than pushing ahead, as it continues to turn away other forest certifications such as SFI.

Monte Paulson, from the Canadian website The Tyee, has been covering the SFI-FSC debate closely and he has a post this week about Abusow’s comments. She points out that most building standards around the world take into account multiple forest certifications, and that the USGBC has run out of justifications for holding out.

“It’s pretty clear that LEED is an outlier, that LEED is a laggard rather than a leader when it comes to wood recognition and forest certification,” Abusow said.

Abusow briefed her members on the five-year-long legal and lobbying war between the two leading forest certification programs.

Her organization, SFI, which has roots in the forest products industry, is engaged in a bitter struggle with the rival FSC, which has roots in the environmental movement, for access to the LEED standard, which is set by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Abusow described the U.S. Green Building Council’s position this way:

“They [the USGBC] recognize they certainly have created a gap that they can’t explain anymore… They understand that they need to have some criteria to explain why they have this position.

“And so for five years we’ve been painfully waiting for them to come out with this criteria. And we’re now in our fourth round of benchmarks. And what they’ve demonstrated is that they are experts in process and not yet at the outcome stage.”

Paulson says the USGBC is expected to release its fourth round of draft regulations this fall.

For more information about SFI and its conference this week, check out a full rundown of the conference, a video interview with Abusow and information about SFI’s three new board members.