More major US brands distance themselves from ‘Sustainable Forestry Initiative’ (SFI)

Big brand trend away from industry-operated label nears tipping point
Tuesday May 15, 2012

PRESS CONTACT: Kristi Chester Vance, 415-902-5885

SAN FRANCISCO – Actions by another group of large US companies strengthens a growing corporate movement away from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), a controversial 'eco-label' that Forest Ethics contends greenwashes environmentally damaging paper and lumber products.  The trend began last year when ForestEthics released a list of fourteen prominent brands—including AT&T, Office Depot, United Stationers and Allstate—that took action or made commitments to phase out or eliminate the use of SFI’s logo on products or in public communications.  Today’s announcement brings the total to 21 big brands that have distanced themselves from SFI.

Phillips Van Heusen, Shutterfly, Pitney Bowes, Allied Electronics, Energizer and US Airways are among the latest major brands to take action or make commitments to avoid the use of the SFI label.  Some of these companies also further boosted their environmental performance by making stronger commitments to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) program. (see below for details)

"Behind the green paint on SFI’s brand is business-as-usual forest destruction,” said Aaron Sanger of ForestEthics. "Today’s leading companies want environmentally responsible partners, not the seal of a timber industry-supported organization that leading environmental groups believe is irresponsible.”

Virtually all of SFI's funding comes from the companies or investment groups that own or manage the 160 million acres of land in North America that the SFI certifies. 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.  Instead, SFI spends millions of dollars every year to advertize that it is ‘good for forests’ when it approves large-scale timber operations that impair fish and wildlife habitat, cause landslides and pollute water.  Twenty-one environmental organizations, including Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, have joined ForestEthics in publicly demonstrating that SFI has no credibility with North America’s leading organizations dedicated to protecting the environment.

For the past two years ForestEthics has been leading a campaign to educate major US companies about the problem of SFI’s greenwash.  In addition to announcing company actions related to SFI, the ForestEthics campaign includes a number of components, including the following:

SFI: Certified Greenwash, 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.

Complaints have been filed with the Federal Trade Commission and Internal Revenue Service alleging that SFI misleads the public through deceptive marketing and operates as a nonprofit public charity even though it primarily serves private for-profit interests. The complaints can be viewed on the website of the Washington Forest Law Center, a public interest law firm that represents ForestEthics: http://wflc.org/cases/credibleforestcert/SFIcomplaints.

Details of the most recent company actions or commitments to move away from the SFI are as follows:

  • Ruby Tuesday has made a commitment to avoid any use or promotion of the SFI logo and name in conjunction with Ruby Tuesday’s brand, products or services.
  • Phillips Van Heusen will maintain a strong preference for FSC certified products and will avoid using or promoting the SFI.
  • Shutterfly will give preference to FSC certified products in all new paper purchases and will avoid reference to the SFI program in its external communications.
  • Pitney Bowes will give preference to FSC certified products in all new paper purchases for its own internal use and will avoid reference to the SFI program in its external communications.
  • Allied Electronics changed its catalog paper from SFI to FSC.
  • Energizer has committed to stop using the SFI logo.
  • US Airways has committed to avoid any use or promotion of the SFI logo or SFI certified products.
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