Environmental Group Attacks SFI, Tissue Industry

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The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) has been busy launching attacks on the forest products industry recently, targeting the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and tissue makers.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), created by members of the American Forest & Paper Association, an industry organization, is a North American forest certification standard. It is the world’s largest single forest certification standard by area.

In a blog on the NRDC website, Courtenay Lewis criticized SFI, its roots in the forest products industry, and proposed updates to SFI.
“SFI continues to be industry-dominated in its decision-making and policies, and for years, NRDC and other environmental groups, academics, and industry watchdogs have publicly exposed its certification as greenwashing,” wrote Lewis.

According to SFI, the proposed new standards will help protect water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, species at risk and forests.

Lewis called the proposed updates “an extension of its past policies, relying on lax and nebulous recommendations rather than obligatory and meaningful safeguards.”

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“SFI’s continued greenwashing could not come at a worse time,” he added, as meteorologists predict that 2020 will be the hottest year on record. Conserving forests in order to combat climate change is critical, he wrote. “But SFI’s proposal takes us dramatically in the wrong direction, offering to launder forest-harming operations by giving them a green seal of approval.”

NRDC submitted comments in response to SFI’s proposed standard. Those comments urge prior informed consent from indigenous people who could be impacted by forestry operations, and objections to converting natural forests to plantations, lack of protections for habitat of threatened species, and allowing clear-cuts larger than 120 acres.

The NRDC also recently criticized top U.S. manufacturers of toilet tissue paper for using wood fiber from old-growth forests in Canada.

Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark and Georgia-Pacific use virgin forest fiber to make their tissue products rather than using recycled alternatives “despite the dire consequences that practice has for our planet’s future,” the council said in a statement.

The companies’ single-use tissue products, including toilet paper, are typically made from wood pulp, mostly obtained by logging in Canada’s old-growth northern, or boreal, forests, the NRDC said in a report.

The giant boreal forest that stretches across northern North America plays a crucial role in combating climate change because it absorbs and stores carbon dioxide, a major contributor to planetary heating, the report noted.

“Tissue manufacturers need to acknowledge the facts and take full responsibility for the role they play in fueling climate change and forest destruction,” said the NRDC.

Choices consumers make in buying toilet paper and other products affect “the health of our climate and of future generations”, it said.
In response, Georgia-Pacific said it was committed to sustainable forestry, makes sure its virgin fiber is responsibly sourced, and complies with Canada’s stringent laws requiring companies to replant and restore forest land.

Procter & Gamble said its product also was sourced from responsibly managed forests. “For every tree we use, at least one is regrown,” a spokeswoman said.

Kimberly-Clark said it has committed to reducing its use of virgin wood fiber from natural forests by half in its tissue products by 2025, by switching to recycled and other fibers.

The Forest Products Association of Canada took issue with the NRDC report, saying the environmental group “misrepresents our industry” when it claims toilet paper production puts boreal forests at risk.

“In reality, forest products from Canada’s boreal region can be counted among the most responsibly made in the world,” the industry group said in a statement, noting that sustainable forest management is strictly regulated by the government.