FSC vs. SFI: Eco Labels are Duking it Out

  • Apr 5, 2011


As I wrote about a few weeks back, there are way too many eco labels or certifications out there. It is an alphabet soup of meaningful and meaningless symbols and seals. Not only does this lead to people being confused, but, even worse, it can also lead to complete misleading claims or obfuscation.

An excellent article in GreenerBuildings.com, details the latest fight between the backers of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

In it, he quotes Todd Paglia, executive director of the activist group Forest Ethics, saying this about the SFI:

“SFI is dangerous because it is a lie — it tells consumers that the product bearing the label is green when it isn’t. SFI allows logging in old growth, logging in endangered species habitat, clearcut logging on landslide prone slopes above salmon streams…. In other words, business as usual with a “green” façade.

When industry is helping write the rules and set its own standards they will be high on rhetoric and extremely low on substance. That is SFI: This is a fake eco-label of, by, and for the forest industry.”

Of course, the powers to be at SFI are not taking this claim lying down. On its website SFI says:

“ForestEthics continues to peddle pulp fiction about the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, repeating the same old inaccurate and misleading information.

With just 10 percent of the world’s forests certified to any certification standard, groups should work together to increase responsible forestry. Instead, ForestEthics spends energy and resources on well-funded attacks to discredit SFI, often citing outdated, incomplete, inaccurate or misleading information.”

Does the paper and wood pulp industry really need two completely separate stndards and seals of approvals?

As you can see from the graphic from TreeHugger.com, there are conflicting labels for many products. Some are well intentioned; others are created by the same industry being regulated. It is like Gerge Orwell’s classic novel, 1984 ,where a Big Lie can be told over and over again until it is believed.

There needs to be one set of eco-codes or the public will start to ignore them altogether. This might be the goal of some of the organizations, but the entire green movement take take several steps backwards if green seals become meaningless. VHS and Beta cannot co-exist. One industry standard.

Who is going to win?

Hopefully the American people.


  • Category: green marketing
  • Tags: Forest Ethics, Forest Stewardship Council, fsc, FSC vs. SFI, greenbuildings.com, SFI, SFI vs. FSC, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, too many eco labels, Treehugger.com