Fortune 500 Trend Against Misleading Eco-Label Accelerates

Seven More Brands Distance Themselves from 'Sustainable Forestry Initiative'
Tuesday Sep 13, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO - Another group of Fortune 500 companies has joined a growing corporate movement against the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), a controversial industry-sponsored 'eco-label' that greenwashes environmentally damaging products. The trend began in March when seven other prominent brands, including Allstate, Office Depot and United Stationers announced action to stop using the SFI's 'eco-label' on branded paper products or company publications.

Sprint, Norm Thompson Outfitters, King Arthur Flour, AT&T, State Farm, U.S. Bank and Comcast are the latest major brands to take action or make commitments that reduce their support for the SFI. Some of these companies also further boosted their environmental credibility by making stronger commitments to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) program. (see below for details)

"SFI's greenwashing of business-as-usual forest destruction is toxic for companies with strong environmental values and commitments," said Aaron Sanger of ForestEthics. "These brands want tools and certifications that build their credibility in the marketplace, not tools like SFI that are being investigated for misleading consumers."

Last Fall, ForestEthics published SFI: Certified Greenwash (view here), a report exposing SFI's false claims and inadequate standards to protect forests. The report describes how SFI, funded and managed primarily by some of the world's largest timber companies, gives a 'green' seal of approval to the environmentally harmful practices of these same companies.

The previous year, ForestEthics filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and Internal Revenue Service alleging that SFI misleads the public through deceptive marketing and operates as a nonprofit charity even though it primarily serves private for profit interests.

Here is a summary of actions or commitments by Sprint, Norm Thompson Outfitters, King Arthur Flour, AT&T, State Farm, U.S. Bank and Comcast:

  • Sprint will shift all billing statement paper from SFI to FSC, will phase out use of the SFI logo on billing envelopes, and commits to give purchasing preference to FSC-certified paper.
  • Norm Thompson Outfitters removed all references to SFI in print materials and websites and committed to avoid promotion of SFI.
  • King Arthur Flour stopped using the SFI logo on its catalogs and switched to FSC certified paper.
  • AT&T committed to avoid using the SFI logo and name in its materials, and to give purchasing preference to FSC certified products for all new paper purchases.
  • State Farm changed the paper for its number one agent promotional item, the State Farm Road Atlas, from SFI to FSC - and committed to state a preference for FSC when the company revises its comprehensive paper policy.
  • U.S. Bank committed to avoid using the SFI name and logo on printed materials and other company communications, and to use only the FSC seal when a forest eco-label is used.
  • Comcast committed to steps that will avoid future company promotion of SFI.

SFI today gives its seal of approval or 'certification' to activities on more than 160 million acres of forests or tree plantations all across North America. Virtually all of SFI's funding comes from the companies that own or manage these lands. Out of 543 audits of SFI-certified companies since 2004, not one acknowledges any major issues-such as soil erosion, clearcutting, water quality, or chemical usage-that are known to be problems with large-scale timber operations.

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