By John Caulfield. The concept of sustainable forest management has been around since the mid-1980s and was adopted in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Several environmental and industry organizations have gotten more involved in the development of management standards, and those standards have gone through several revisions. Here are some of the key players in this debate.

Canadian Standards Association

A nonprofit membership association, CSA is compared to Underwriters Laboratories in that it develops standards and codes to enhance public safety, preserve the environment, and facilitate trade. In March, it issued revised standards for sustainable forest management, with new elements that address Aboriginal rights, biodiversity, and protected areas. The Forest Products Association of Canada said the revised standards would move that group's members closer to their commitment to third-party forestry-specific certification by the end of 2006.

Forest Stewardship Council

The Council, which dates back to 1933, is based in Mexico and has an American division based in Washington, D.C. Its claim to fame has been that its standards and procedures, as well as its network of 12 accredited certifying agencies worldwide (two in the U.S.), are independent of the industry in which forest management practices are being assessed. The knock against FSC has been that its standards were more applicable to Europe than North America and that the Council was too cozy with environmentalists calling for forest preservation. FSC has refined its standards to increase its penetration into North America. Its label came out in 2001. Michael Washburn, president of FSC's American division, had been director of the forest certification program at Yale University.


This Vancouver-based consulting group was started in 1991 by Patrick Moore, who spent 15 years with Greenpeace. Moore's philosophy can be summed up by his slogan: "trees are the answer." He advocates using lumber -- a sustainable resource -- instead of materials like steel and concrete that are produced with non-renewable fossil fuels. Moore said he began Greenspirit because he wanted to switch "from confrontation to consensus." That brought him into direct conflict with environmental groups that view Moore as a traitor to their cause; and which Moore has accused of anti-scientific political correctness as well as "elitism, left-wingism, and eco-fascism."

National Commission on Science for Sustainable Forestry

A resource for those still trying to sort through conflicting positions, this commission was created by the National Council for Science and the Environment, a nonprofit, Washington, D.C.-based organization founded in 1990 to improve the scientific basis for environmental decision making. The commission is composed of scientists and forest management professionals from industry, academia, government, and environmental groups. Current efforts are focused on creating benchmarking tools for evaluating how forest management practices impact biodiversity, but limited funding will likely make the voice of science hard to hear amid the shouts of policy proponents.

Natural Resources Defense Council

This New York-based nonprofit group, started in 1970, identifies itself as "the nation's most effective environmental action organization." It's currently on a rampage against what it claims are the Bush Administration's anti-environmental policies. NRDC claims it has one million members and reported an operating budget of more than $46 million in 2002. Its agenda touches everything from global warming to nuclear waste. On the wood front, NRDC wants the government to stop selling off its national forests. It also wants to "build a thriving market for certified wood products."

Rainforest Action Network

When industry officials say "radical," they usually have RAN in mind. Founded in 1985, this San Francisco non- government organization, or NGO, is one of the more visible advocates of environmental protection and a thorn in the side of corporate America. RAN favors "direct action through citizen protests," and has demonstrated in the parking lots of The Home Depot stores and at the NAHB's convention to get companies to stop buying products made from wood cut from endangered forests. Mike Brune, RAN's newly appointed executive director, ran its Old Growth campaign for five years. RAN has a particular animus against Boise Cascade, but other "campaigns" have targeted Citigroup, Ford, Nike, Starbucks, and Burger King, which have raised questions about its focus and ultimate goals.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative

A certification program conceived in 1999 by the American Forest amp; Paper Association, SFI was once thought to be little more than a rubber stamp for industry. But SFI recently issued its fourth revision and has made great strides toward toughening its standards and promoting third-party inspection and auditing. In July 2000, AFamp;PA placed SFI under an independent 15-person Sustainable Forestry Board, which in 2002 was granted nonprofit status. That year, the board named as its president William Banzhaf, who spent 15 years with the American Society of Foresters. SFI launched its label in 2002.

Back to Certified Dilema.