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New SFI standard and label ensures responsible sourcing of fiber-based packaging

New SFI standard and label ensures responsible sourcing of fiber-based packaging
A new standard means companies using the SFI label will need to update it on their packaging, too.

Making sure packaging materials are “responsibly sourced” can help corporations meet their sustainability goals. When it comes to fiber, the pool of responsible sources may be expanding, which might have a positive impact on price and availability for packaging.

On Jan. 7, 2015, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) announced its new 2015-2019 Standards and Rules. Among the updates is a new Fiber Sourcing Standard. Jason Metnick, svp, Customer Affairs, explains how the new certification standards and label changes will affect the packaging industry.

One of the updates was to separate fiber sourcing requirements into their own auditable standard, the SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard. And, according to the website, “The new SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard distinguishes SFI from all other forest certification programs in that it requires the responsible procurement of fiber from non-certified lands.” Why is this change a good thing for packaging purchasers?

Metnick: The SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard is purposefully designed to influence millions of additional landowners through the promotion of responsible forestry, education, training and outreach. This will encourage the spread of responsible forestry practices throughout the supply chain. Given that about 90% of the world’s forests are uncertified there needs to be a strong mechanism to promote responsible procurement from non-certified lands. In addition, despite the very low risk of illegal logging in the United States and Canada, the marketplace has increasingly wanted risk assessments across the entire supply chain. The SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard requires Program Participants to assess the risk of illegal logging regardless of the country or region of origin.

How do purchasers ensure that they responsibly buying fiber from non-certified lands?

Metnick: For sources originating from within the United States and Canada, SFI Fiber Sourcing certificate holders must comply with all applicable laws and also broaden the practice of responsible forestry. This is accomplished in a variety of ways, including addressing the conservation of biodiversity such as forests with Exceptional Conservation Value in harvests of purchased stumpage, and utilizing the services of qualified logging professionals, certified logging professionals and resource professionals. SFI Program Participants must also invest in forestry research, science and technology, upon which sustainable forest management decisions are based and develop verifiable monitoring systems to evaluate the use of best management practices across the wood and fiber supply area.

Q: How might it impact their availability of supply, as well as their costs?

Metnick: Over the past few years, SFI certification has started paying off for those who invested in it. SFI’s recognition and market acceptance continues to grow. According to a recent survey by European polling company GfK, more than 25% of U.S. consumers surveyed recognize the SFI label. In addition, almost 20% of Fortune 100 companies used the SFI label in 2014. That said, the SFI program’s reach goes much further than its certification standards. For example, since 1995, SFI Program Participants and their partners have invested in logger training for environmentally responsible timber harvesting that has reached more than 150,000 professionals.

According to the SFI document about the changes, “The requirements to use the SFI Certified Sourcing label were also enhanced with management system requirements including procedures for internal audits, as well as more requirements on conducting a risk assessment to avoid controversial sources.” Will this mean that all companies currently using this on their packaging will have to make a change to the new label? If so, will there be a transition time? If so, what is it?

Metnick: All SFI Program Participants have one year from the time the SFI 2015-2019 Standards and Rules took effect on Jan. 1, 2015, to implement all new and revised requirements. Program Participants must demonstrate conformance to the new requirements at their first surveillance audit following the implementation period. Earlier adoption is encouraged.

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