More than 330 virtual attendees from across the U.S. and Canada joined the Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s E-Summit, Growing Solutions, to share ideas about how sustainably managed forests, and products sourced from those forests, are great tools to achieve shared sustainability goals.

SFI has been a leader in sustainable forest management through its standards for 25 years. In recent years SFI has built on its successes and evolved into a solutions-oriented sustainability organization. The e‑summit was a chance for attendees to learn about our evolution and how our network, expertise, and scale is engaging the next generation of forest and conservation leaders so that SFI will continue to champion sustainability for the next 25 years and beyond.

Session 1: Responding to Consumers and Providing Better Choices for the Planet

Bruce Anderson, Partner, Spark Advocacy and Chairman of Abacus Data, presented important consumer trends in forestry and sustainability. Environment, social, and governance trends featured prominently in his remarks, signaling growing interest in more sustainable product choices. Anderson pointed to supporting research that shows 71% of consumers say using wood products is a good idea to combat climate change.

Session 2: Standards Revision and the Impact of Label Statements

Suzanne Shelton, President and CEO, Shelton Group, focused on why certifications matter more than ever and why brands should be promoting them. “Eighty-six percent of consumers expect companies to stand for something other than making money,” Shelton said. She also noted that third-party certifications are rising in importance as a top way consumers discover if a brand is green.

Jason Metnick, Senior Vice President of Customer Affairs at SFI, encouraged people from SFI-certified organizations to feed data into the SFI-certified product database to help consumers find SFI-certified products and make sustainable purchases.

Session 3: Conservation Impact—Collaborating on Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Water Quality

Paul Trianosky, SFI’s Chief Conservation Officer and Mike Parr, President of the American Bird Conservancy and an SFI Board Member, offered insights on the SFI Conservation Impact Project. They discussed how collaborations with universities and ENGOs are helping SFI and partners develop information and tools that will illustrate the outcomes of SFI’s work in the areas of climate change, biodiversity, and water quality.

Findings from the American Bird Conservancy that inform the SFI Conservation Impact Project illustrated specific contributions of SFI-certified lands to bird species at risk.  “The SFI footprint of approximately 375 million forested acres makes an enormous contribution to the avifauna of North America as well as to clean water and biodiversity,” Parr explained.

Session 4: How Forest Sector Professionals Can Support Forest Literacy for Youth

Attendees heard about new Project Learning Tree (PLT) resources to teach youth audiences about our forests. Several PLT funders discussed how they have benefited from partnering with PLT.

Tinelle Bustam, Director of Conservation Education, USDA Forest Service observed, “PLT’s forest literacy framework is a roadmap to help people understand the importance of forests, and our responsibility for sustaining them.”

“PLT’s new Pocket Guide: Seeds to Trees hits the sweet spot for our community engagement and education outreach goals,” said Amy Grow, Manager of Community Engagement at International Paper.

Session 5: Building Bridges for the Next Generation of Forest and Conservation Leaders

PLT Canada provides a variety of resources that help youth and employers build a diverse and sustainable workforce for the future because not everyone has access to role models or understands the opportunities that are available in the forest and conservation sector. Connecting Indigenous youth with mentoring opportunities is also a key priority. PLT Canada has created a free Guide to Green Jobs in Canada, told entirely through the perspectives of Indigenous professionals.

“We have worked with PLT Canada from coast-to-coast-to-coast participating in the Green Jobs program,” explained Dawn Carr, Executive Director of the Canadian Parks Council and an SFI and PLT Canada Board Member.

Mentorship was discussed as an extremely important tool to ensure no loss of knowledge when a third of the Canadian forest workforce retires by 2030. Catherine Langille, Indigenous Youth Opportunities Intern at PLT Canada, stated, “PLT Canada’s My Green Mentor Program has changed my life. It has allowed me to open my connections and speak with someone who will benefit my career, social life, and overall future,”

Working together (virtually) for sustainability

We were pleased to bring so many people together virtually and our attendees enthusiastic participation helped make the e‑summit a success. I encourage you to learn more about how SFI is addressing key sustainability challenges through our mission of forest-focused collaborations.

Nadine Block is SFI’s Senior Vice President of Government and Network Relations

(nadine.block@sfiprogram.org).

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