Links in the Chain
Rutherford, New Jersey-based SGS Systems & Services Certification is a leading certification body in forest management, with more than 1,500 chain-of-custody (CoC) certifications worldwide. Mike Evers, sales executive, northeast region, discussed available CoC certifications and the audit process. “Green can mean many things; CoC only applies to wood and paper materials,” he said. “It has nothing to do with soy ink or energy conservation or renewable power sources. But, [CoC] is a standard that has a lot of teeth.”
Forest product certification in the United States and Canada is principally being sought under one of two competing standards—Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). “A third international system, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), is significant in European markets, but not widely recognized in North America. However, it’s important for some international trade—particularly with Europe,” noted Evers. “SFI is actually a member organization of PEFC in the United States.”
He explained FSC was created by a few environmental alliances—chiefly the rainforest alliance—concerned about poor forest management. “They established FSC standards and promoted them to end-users within big public companies, urging paper and wood supplies be FSC certified. The end-users then started bringing the message home to printers and suppliers who essentially never heard of FSC standards before,” he continued.
“It was purely market driven and eventually came down to the owners of the forests; mainly the big paper companies. The environmental groups hadn’t elicited participation of the big companies in creating the standard, even though they would be directly affected. The big paper companies then got together and formed SFI in 1999,” observed Evans. “FSC and SFI are more or less competing organizations, but they’re similar and accomplish the same end result.”
The FSC standard tends to be marketed to specialty and niche markets for wood products of various types, such as paper, lumber and furniture, while SFI has the participation of many of the region’s largest wood-product manufacturers, particularly in the paper sector. “[SGS] has no allegiance to either. We’re the independent third company doing the audit as per their standards and issuing the certificates,” said Evers.