New Name, Same Old Forest Industry: Why SFI Is Greenwashing

Dogwood Alliance has transformed the paper industry around the world. Our demands are always simple:

  • protect endangered forests
  • stop turning natural forests into tree plantations
  • end destructive practices like clearcutting
  • stop poisoning our communities and water with toxic chemicals

We’ve worked hard to expose forest industry greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

Companies use greenwashing practices to convince us that their products are an environmental benefit when they’re not. They use misleading information and industry buzzwords like “sustainability”, “clean”, “green product”, “renewable”, and “natural.”

This environmental marketing claim appeals to people who want to be responsible consumers. Companies like this will do anything to get our money except change their practices or improve their supply chain.

Sometimes they even buy fancy certifications to prove that their company is green. Forest certifications are a way that companies can “prove” that they did little or no harm with their forest operations while harvesting the wood. But the environmental impact of harvesting remains. In plain language, this is greenwashing: making consumers feel good about their choices without making any changes to how business is done.


What is SFI certification?

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is an organization that offers empty certifications to greenwashers. For obeying the weak SFI forest management standard, manufacturers get to put the SFI symbol on their forest products.

They do this for a price. You’ll find the SFI seal on greenwashed products that hurt forests and communities. The SFI seal assures consumers that someone is regulating the company’s forest practices. But SFI covers up damaging practices, certifies forest destruction, and calls it green. Just because we call something “eco-friendly” doesn’t mean that it actually is.

Is SFI forest management eco friendly?

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative supports forest management practices that are very damaging to our forests. The average clearcut approved by SFI is the size of 90 football fields. Does that seem environmentally friendly to you? The environmental impacts of SFI are a real threat to our natural resources.

They use other forest management practices that are damaging as well. SFI allows their forest managers to use dangerous pesticides. Those can affect biological diversity and even our drinking water. Does that seem eco-friendly to you?

SFI also allows its forest managers to log old-growth forests, endangered forests, AND turn natural forests into pine plantations. Is that environmentally friendly? Vague claims about SFI representing “green products” simply don’t hold up.

Updates to the SFI certification by its certification body haven’t improved SFI at all. Instead of creating stringent standards, they’ve continued to water down their regulations. Forest management under SFI is no better than forest management by big companies who don’t care about forests. SFI is really just slapping a green sheen on the same old dirty logging industry secret.

Same old greenwashing forest industry

SFI is at it again with the latest updates to its forest products certification scheme. But they’re still giving green cover for:

  • biodiversity loss
  • the speedup of the climate crisis
  • putting our communities in harm’s way

SFI has updated its standards for the certification of forests and forest products. Those updates go into effect in 2022. SFI claims to have made major improvements for climate and biodiversity in their press releases.

Our friends at the Sierra Club have done an in-depth analysis of the changes. The Sierra Club found that it’s still the same old forest industry greenwash. Their forest management practices have remained the same – it’s just more deceptive “green” marketing. Collectively, SFI practices are no better than those of oil companies.

SFI’s new standards are the same as the old ones. They allow business-as-usual industrial logging and then claim sustainability. They guarantee little and have so many loopholes and vague language. This lets the largest timber companies in North America call themselves green while they use poor forest management and hurt our forests.


“New” SFI environmental claims

  • They don’t protect old growth and endangered forests. SFI certified companies “support and participate in programs for the conservation of old-growth forests in the region of ownership or tenure.”
  • They don’t protect endangered or vulnerable species. Companies only need to create a “program to protect” species.
  • They don’t recognize Indigenous Peoples’ right to approve or deny logging. They don’t respect traditional Indigenous rights and resources. SFI certified companies must only “develop and implement a written policy acknowledging a commitment to recognize and respect” Indigenous rights.

Despite the SFI “updates” and green marketing, the outcome is the same: weak instead of stringent standards that don’t reflect the public’s environmental and social values. SFI remains a labeling system whose central pillar is greenwashing.

As you purchase forest market products like paper, cardboard, and wood, take steps to avoid greenwashing. Look for post consumer recycled content and only buy what you need. Taking steps like these can protect future generations from the impacts of poor forest management and climate change.

Read more about SFI greenwashing with an explanation of the new standards, fact sheets, and ways to avoid greenwashing.

One Response to “New Name, Same Old Forest Industry: Why SFI Is Greenwashing”

  1. Becky A. Weeks

    Thank you for your information. I’ve been looking for a source for recycled, or non tree paper. Locally, all I could find was SFI at Walmart. I looked up SFI, and they talked around in circles without actually saying anything definate about recycling or non tree paper.
    Thank you again for clearing up their mumbo jumbo!


Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>