Greenwashing claims made against major forest certification organization

Linda Casey

January 29, 2014

4 Min Read
Greenwashing claims made against major forest certification organization Damien Cox


Nonprofit North American organization ForestEthics has issued a release announcing that seven companies, including "four from the Fortune 500, have made new commitments and actions to stop using the Sustainable Forestry Initiative's (SFI) 'eco-label' on branded paper products or company publications." In this release, Aaron Sanger of ForestEthics accuses SFI of greenwashing. SFI fires back in its own statement that says ForestEthics continues to distribute "old inaccurate and misleading information." In a conversation with Packaging Digest this morning, SFI president and CEO Kathy Abusow remarked that her organization urges ForestEthics to redirect its efforts to finding "common objectives with us to help solve pressing issues."



Original press release and statements are below:


Fortune 500 Companies Drop Misleading Eco-Label Seven Brands Reject Seal of 'Sustainable Forestry Initiative'  - SOURCE ForestEthics

PR Newswire --Seven companies, including four from the Fortune 500, have made new commitments and actions to stop using the Sustainable Forestry Initiative's (SFI) 'eco-label' on branded paper products or company publications. 

Aetna, Allstate, Garnet Hill, Office Depot, Performance Bicycles, Symantec, and United Stationers each made separate commitments or took actions (see below for details).
"SFI's greenwashing of business as usual forest destruction is toxic for companies with strong environmental values and commitments," said Aaron Sanger of ForestEthics. "These brands want tools and certifications that are truly green and build their credibility, not tools like SFI that are being investigated for misleading consumers."
Last Fall, ForestEthics published SFI: Certified Greenwash, a report exposing a number of SFI's false claims. The report describes how SFI, funded and managed primarily by some of the world's largest timber companies, gives a 'green' seal of approval to the environmentally harmful practices of these same companies. The previous year, ForestEthics filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and Internal Revenue Service alleging that SFI misleads the public through deceptive marketing and operates as a nonprofit charity even though it primarily serves private for profit interests.

Here is a summary of actions and commitments by Aetna, Allstate, Garnet Hill, Office Depot, Performance Bicycles, Symantec, and United Stationers:
Aetna: Committed to phasing out use of the SFI logo on printed marketing materials.

Allstate: Will shift all office paper in Allstate facilities nationwide from SFI certified to FSC certified.
United Stationers: Committed to using FSC as its benchmark for acceptable forest certification in procurement and marketing.
Symantec: Removed SFI language from website and committed to integrate this position into internal practices for paper marketing materials and packaging.
Garnet Hill: Will no longer print its catalog on paper labeled with the SFI seal.
Performance Bicycles: Will no longer print its catalog on SFI certified paper.
Office Depot: Will phase-out use of the SFI logo on Office Depot brand papers as reported by ForestEthics in its 2010 Green Grades report.

SFI today gives its seal of approval or 'certification' to activities on more than 160 million acres of forests or tree plantations all across North America. Virtually all of SFI's funding comes from the companies that own or manage these lands. Out of 543 audits of SFI-certified companies since 2004, not one acknowledges any major issues - such as soil erosion, clearcutting, water quality, or chemical usage - that are known to be problems with the large-scale operations approved by SFI.

ForestEthics, a nonprofit with staff in Canada and the United States, recognizes that individual people can be mobilized to create positive environmental change - and so can corporations. Armed with this unique philosophy, ForestEthics has secured the protection of more than sixty-five million acres of Endangered Forests.


ForestEthics Continues to Peddle Pulp Fiction as SFI Continues to Grow -- SOURCE: SFI

ForestEthics continues to peddle pulp fiction about the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, repeating the same old inaccurate and misleading information. With several credible forest certification standards in the marketplace, there are many paths to the same goals. While we respect businesses making choices, the real damage from ForestEthics' campaign is the uneven playing field that it creates for well-managed domestic forest practices and products. ForestEthics pushes organizations to buy FSC only, but the vast majority of FSC's supply is offshore. Global trade in forest products is fine, but domestic products managed to high standards shouldn't be shut out due to misinformation campaigns and pressure tactics. That can hurt our forest communities and cost jobs.

SFI is strong and growing - more and more companies accept and recognize SFI and many have inclusive policies, recognizing all credible standards. SFI is the largest single forest certification standard in the world and last year, we experienced record growth in chain of custody certificates and locations and label use approvals.
We will stand up for SFI's name, the integrity of our program, our audit requirements, and our board. We are proud of the SFI community's commitment and progress in responsible forestry, our growth and recognition in the marketplace, our on-the ground-work in conservation, and our tangible work in communities across North America. ForestEthics' malicious campaigns will not deter us from that focus.



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