WDMA Tech Conference Takes Closer Look at Forest Certification Standards: Experts Ask What is Best for All?

June 27th, 2012 | Category: Industry News

Corey Brinkema, FSC

Forest Certification was the focus of two sessions held this week during the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) technical conference taking place in Minneapolis. Corey Brinkema, president of the U.S. national office of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), discussed the latest forest certification standards and market drivers for green building products as well as FSC procedures yesterday. Jason Metnick, senior director of Market Access and Product Labeling for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), spoke with conference attendees today about the SFI certification program and addressed why green building rating tools, standards and codes should recognize credible forest certification standards.

Metnick said forest certification began as a way for buyers, governments and consumers to have reassurance that the products they are purchasing are being produced by sustainable manufacturers.

Both SFC and SFI are among the organizations that develop forest certification standards. SFC and the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) are the two national groups, according to Metnick who also said when it comes to certification standards it is “alphabet soup.”

“There are probably about 50 different forest certification standards that operate across the world,” he said.

According to Brinkema, global certification and an eco-label system were initiated in 1993. Currently, 150 million acres of North American forests (which includes some within 34 states) are certified and 360 million are globally. FSC pushes for a “balanced, comprehensive, globally consistent, and locally relevant” set of standards, and is the only organization that requires ecological functions be maintained and/or enhanced, rare habitats and conservation values are upheld, deforestation is prevented, indigenous people and local communities preserved and hazardous chemicals banned, he said.

In the realms of U.S. expansion, Brinkema said the 150 million acres of certified forests in North America is up from 65 million in 2007. Metnick said only 10 percent of the world’s forest is actually certified.

“What we’re looking at is how can we grow that number?” Metnick said. “How can we expand certification to that 90 percent to ensure that there is responsible forestry happening on those lands that produce our wood and paper products that we enjoy every day?”

Brinkema said the role of U.S. companies and consumers is highly important, as the U.S. is one of the top 25 producers and consumers of wood and “so far, companies have led the way” in green building products and forest certification standards. The challenge, he said, is “engaging the mainstream” to be proactive with green building and certified products.

Brinkema said the understanding that there is a direct correlation between purchasing products and the environment is growing. The types of product that have the most impact and would benefit the environment greatly, if FSC certified, include remodeling items such as doors, window framing, and other lumber- and plywood-based building products.

“If there’s a problem, there’s also a hopeful presumption that someone else is or will be taking care of it,” Brinkema said. “But there’s also a deep distrust of government and corporate entities trying to solve the problem. To get the mainstream to follow through on good green intentions, action must be easy and accessible.”

Jason Metnick, SFI

Metnick said that another issue within certification standards is that some companies only abide by one organization’s set of rules as opposed to appeasing the standards submitted by all certification groups.

Additionally the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED standard states FSC standards or a USGBC equivalent standard is acceptable but LEED certification does not specify the organizations that are up to par. The new LEED certification standard (LEED v4) is scheduled to undergo public commentary until its final release in 2013. Metnick said the SFI will closely follow the LEED standard’s progress.

“No guidance has been issued from USGBC on how it is defining what makes a credible source for a certification standard,” Metnick said. “It’s not just mainstream industry out there that’s talking about this issue. There have been many stakeholders that are concerned about the direction USGBC is going whether its academia, conservation groups or architects. We’ve had many posts on our blog that are not [from] industry stakeholders that have weighed in on why USGBC should recognize all forms of certification standards.”

The WDMA meeting continues through Thursday this week. Stay tuned to dwmmag.com for more updates from the event.

by Erica Terrini, eterrini@glass.com

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