ForestEthics Files Complaint in Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Charging that the “Sustainable Forestry Initiative” Violates FTC’s New Green Guides

Unprecedented number of consumers file similar complaints
Tuesday May 28, 2013

PRESS CONTACTS: Lauren Stansbury, 202-518-8790, lauren@mintwood.com; Ryan Fletcher, 202-641-0277, ryan@mintwood.com

SEATTLE, WA – Today, ForestEthics, a leading forest protection organization whose mission includes educating consumers about environmentally harmful forestry practices, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking the agency to investigate the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)’s claim to be a ‘green’ certifier of forest products. The complaint argues that SFI’s claim that it is an independent, non-profit public charity is deceptive and misleading because SFI is substantially governed and financed by the timber industry and because its vague and ambiguous forestry standards are developed and approved by timber industry personnel in a closed process. ForestEthics’ complaint is based on the FTC’s recently revised “Green Guides” and is joined by more than 2,800 individual consumers filing their own complaints, and supported by over 8,000 who signed a petition demanding that the FTC take action. This is the largest number of Green Guides complaints concerning a single scheme that the FTC has ever received. To view ForestEthics’ FTC complaint against SFI, visit http://forestethics.org/downloads/official-ftc-complaint.

News of this FTC complaint follows closely on the heels of four more major US companies, Hewlett Packard, Office Depot, Southwest, and Cricket, announcing plans to move away from the SFI.

ForestEthics began its campaign against SFI’s greenwashing of forest destruction by filing complaints with the IRS and FTC in 2009. Since then, 24 companies have moved away from the SFI, for a complete list, visit www.forestethics.org/downloads/sfi-company-list.

In April, the SFI sent a ‘cease and desist’ letter - a threat to sue - to ForestEthics. But, if sued, ForestEthics intends to vigorously stand by its First Amendment right to challenge SFI with truthful facts and opinion and to report SFI to consumer protection government agencies.

“The Sustainable Forestry Initiative label is the timber industry’s cynical effort to get a piece of the highly valuable green marketplace in the US, which is currently valued at $500 billion dollars annually.  We have demonstrable proof that in many regions of the U.S. and Canada, SFI offers virtually no environmental protection beyond that already required by state and federal laws and worse, it offers cover and false marketing for companies trying to take advantage of consumers’ best intentions,” said Aaron Sanger of ForestEthics. “It’s no surprise that the SFI is trying to intimidate ForestEthics with threats of a lawsuit – the green marketplace is growing more valuable by the day. Our Federal Trade Commission complaint today is proof positive that we will not be bullied.”

The complaint submitted by ForestEthics today, (22 pages in length with 858 pages of supporting documentation) centers around the following: The FTC’s Green Guides forbids deceptive claims of independence. The SFI claims that it is independent, but it has direct material connections to the forestry and paper products industry. In 2011, 93 percent of SFI’s funding came from SFI “program participants,” that includes a veritable “who’s who” of the timber and paper industry such as logging giants Weyerhaeuser, Plum Creek, and Rayonier.

The FTC works on behalf of consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. The FTC’s Green Guides were introduced in 1992 to provide guidance to companies that want to call their products "green" or "eco-friendly" and help marketers ensure that claims they make about environmental attributes of their products are truthful and non-deceptive. The Green Guides were last revised in 1998 although the FTC began a comprehensive review of the Green Guides in 2007, which resulted in the 2012 revisions.  

ForestEthics’ ongoing campaign to expose the SFI’s certification program in the U.S. marketplace began in 2009. ForestEthics’ work has revealed that the widely-used forest certification program is financed and governed by the timber industry. The SFI misleads well-intentioned companies and consumers into thinking they are making environmentally sound choices, when in reality the program “certifies” forestry practices that wreak environmental harm, including logging that create massive landslides, destroys rare wildlife and fish habitat, pollutes streams and rivers, and contaminates communities with toxic herbicides and fertilizers. By engaging with supporters and allies, ForestEthics is exposing the truth behind the SFI label while persuading regulators like the Federal Trade Commission and market leaders like Fortune 500 brands to take a stand against SFI “greenwashing”.

ForestEthics is represented by the Seattle-based Washington Forest Law Center, which played a key role in preparing ForestEthics’ FTC complaint.

###

ForestEthics is a non-profit organization devoted to public engagement, outreach and environmental advocacy - including political advocacy. We secure large-scale protection of endangered forests and wild places and transform environmentally destructive resource-extraction industries.

Take Action
3M is associated with clearcuts

Tell 3M's CEO to be an environmental leader

Learn more about Greenwash

The Issue

The truth behind the phony SFI label read more...

The Facts

SFI: Poster child of greenwash eco-labels read more...

The Solutions

Reveal the phoniness of SFI label read more...