The SFI 2015-2019 (Extended through December 2021) Forest Management Standard promotes sustainable forestry practices based on 13 Principles, 15 Objectives, 37 Performance Measures and 101 Indicators. These requirements include measures to protect water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, species at risk and forests with exceptional conservation value.
The SFI 2015-2019 (Extended through December 2021) Fiber Sourcing Standard promotes responsible forestry practices through 14 Principles, 13 Objectives, 21 Performance Measures and 55 Indicators that address 90 percent of the world’s forests that are not certified. These fiber-sourcing requirements include measures to broaden the practice of biodiversity, use best management practices to protect water quality, and use the services of forest management and harvesting professionals. Because it governs how SFI Program Participants procure fiber from non-certified land, the standard is encouraging the spread of responsible forest practices. The SFI 2015-2019 (Extended through December 2021) Fiber Sourcing Standard distinguishes SFI from all other forest certification programs in that it requires the responsible procurement of fiber from non-certified forestlands.
The SFI 2015-2019 (Extended through December 2021) Chain-of-Custody Standard is an accounting system that tracks forest fiber content (certified forest content, certified sourcing and recycled content) through production and manufacturing to the end product. Companies can use chain-of-custody certification to track and communicate forest fiber content using one of three approaches for chain of custody: physical separation, average percentage or volume credit method. The standard is for any organization globally that sources, processes, manufactures, handles, trades, converts or prints forest-based products.
The SFI 2015-2019 Standards and Rules require third-party independent certification audits by competent and accredited certification bodies for all three certifications – forest management, fiber sourcing and chain-of-custody. All certification bodies must be accredited by a member of the International Accreditation Forum.
SFI revises and updates the SFI Standards every five years to incorporate the latest scientific information and to respond to emerging issues. For the first time ever, SFI’s current SFI standard revision process is outside the 5-year renewal timeline. SFI has now aligned the standard revision process with the new revision process adopted by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest certification (PEFC). As such, the new timeline enables SFI to incorporate enhancements from PEFC’s benchmark standards into SFI requirements, as well as other initiatives under development.
SFI will launch the revised SFI Standards in January 2022. Certified organizations have one year (December 2022) to transition to the revised standards. Draft SFI standards will be publicly available throughout the revision process.
The current SFI 2015-2019 Standards and Rules are extended through December 2021.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE SFI 2015-2019 (EXTENDED THROUGH DECEMBER 2021) PROGRAM
The SFI Standards are revised and updated every five years to incorporate the latest scientific information and to respond to emerging issues. As part of this process, comments were received during two 60-day public comment periods in 2013 and 2014, and input was received from 12 public workshops across the United States and Canada. Approximately 10,000 stakeholders were invited to submit comments. Participants included public and private landowners, forest sector representatives, indigenous communities, conservation groups, industry representatives, academics and government officials.
Independent oversight was provided at each stage of the revision process by the SFI External Review Panel, a distinguished group of independent experts representing conservation, professional, academic and public organizations, operating at arm’s length from SFI. The SFI External Review Panel reviewed every public comment submitted to ensure that all comments were considered, and to guarantee the Standard revision process was transparent, objective and credible. The responses to comments are posted on the SFI website.
The SFI requirements were restructured into three stand-alone standards: the SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard, the SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard, and the SFI 2015-2019 Chain of Custody Standard.
The SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard promotes responsible forestry practices based on 14 Principles, 13 Objectives, 21 Performance Measures and 55 Indicators that address the 90 percent of the world’s forests that are not certified. These fiber sourcing requirements include measures to broaden the conservation of biodiversity, use forestry best management practices to protect water quality, provide outreach to landowners and utilize the services of forest management and harvesting professionals. Because it directs how SFI Program Participants procure fiber from non-certified land, this standard encourages the use of responsible forestry practices.
As part of the standard revision process, the 15 member SFI External Review Panel (ERP) provided external independent oversight to ensure the standard revision process was objective and credible and that all comments are treated equally and fairly. The SFI External Review Panel is a distinguished group of independent experts representing conservation, professional, academic and public organizations, operating at arm’s length from SFI.
The ERP has reviewed all the responses for all public comments received during the SFI 2015-2019 Standard revision process to ensure every comment was fairly considered by the applicable Standard Revision Task Groups. All comments are posted on the SFI website our website with explanation as to how each comment was addressed.
Stakeholder Engagement and SFI Implementation Committees
SFI, through its 34 SFI Implementation Committees , actively seeks to promote and implement practices that support sustainable forestry and responsible fiber sourcing. SICs are unique to SFI and are open to all interested stakeholders.
This unique grassroots network involves private landowners, independent loggers, forestry professionals, local government agencies, academics, scientists, and conservationists. Through SFI Implementation Committees, program participants’ work with local organizations and individuals, providing leadership and sharing best practices to improve forest management on both certified and uncertified lands. SFI Implementation Committees offer a forum to provide information or answer questions about local forestry operations, and must have a process to respond to questions or concerns about forestry practices on SFI-certified lands.
The SFI 2015-2019 Standards and Rules require third party independent certification audits by competent and accredited certification bodies for all three certifications — Forest Management certification, Fiber Sourcing certification and Chain-of-Custody certification. All certification bodies must be accredited by a member of the International Accreditation Forum (i.e., ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board, American National Standards Institute or the Standards Council of Canada (SCC)).
The global marketplace has become increasingly concerned with the need to avoid forest based materials from regions of the world where there is an increased risk of illegal logging or deforestation. Historically, less than 2% of the fiber purchased by SFI Program Participants comes from outside the United States and Canada. Previous versions of the SFI Fiber Sourcing and Chain of Custody requirements have focused on ensuring a risk assessment by Program Participants to avoid illegal sources from outside the United States and Canada.
Despite the very low risk of illegal logging in the United States and Canada, the marketplace has increasingly wanted risk assessments across the entire supply chain. The SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard now requires Program Participants to assess the risk of illegal logging regardless of the country or region of origin, which means the same requirements that apply outside the United States and Canada, now also apply to sources within the United States and Canada. This is an assurance that will further facilitate compliance with corporate and government policies such as the U.S. Lacey Act and the European Union Timber Regulation.
With the SFI 2015-2019 Standards and Rules, SFI has expanded the definition of controversial sources and requires program participants making claims or using the SFI labels to conduct a risk assessment to avoid controversial sources (SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard – Appendix 1, Part 6 and the SFI CoC Standard – Part 4).
Controversial sources as defined in the SFI Standards are forest activities which are not in compliance with applicable state, provincial or federal laws, particularly as they may relate to:
legally required protection of threatened and endangered species
requirements of CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)
legally required management of areas with designated high environmental and cultural values
labor regulations relating to forest workers
Indigenous Peoples’ property, tenure and use rights
Controversial sources also include fiber sourced from illegal logging and fiber sourced from areas without effective social laws.
The SFI Board of Directors passed a policy that builds upon SFI’s strong existing measures regarding research on genetically modified trees via forest tree biotechnology (Section 7—Policies of the SFI 2015-2019 Standards and Rules). The policy recognizes the use of genetically modified organisms as an evolving issue, as federal and international laws, regulations, agreements, treaties and marketplace recognition of genetically engineered trees via forest tree biotechnology change. In short, the policy states “use of fiber from genetically engineered trees via forest biotechnology is not approved for use in SFI-labeled products,” but SFI “will proactively review and update the SFI Standard language and policy as necessary.” Specifically SFI Inc:
recognizes that forest tree biotechnology offers the potential to prevent the loss of tree species like the American Chestnut due to devastating diseases and to further improve the quality and productivity of trees, their resistance to insects and disease and to grow trees with characteristics that allow them to be more efficiently manufactured into building products, paper and to provide feedstock for bioenergy.
recognizes that genetically engineered forest trees are not approved for commercial plantings in the United States and Canada and, even if approved in the future, it will take many years for fiber from genetically engineered forest trees to reach manufacturing facilities.
realizes that much research is still being conducted to study the ecological cost benefits of genetically engineered trees and regulations concerning forest biotechnology continue to evolve. As such research and regulations develop, SFI Inc. will review to understand the impacts of genetically engineered trees from an ecological perspective.
is endorsed by the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification which has restrictions on the use of genetically engineered trees until December 31, 2015.
Given the issues identified in item (b) regarding legal approval and lack of commercialization and in item (d) regarding PEFC requirements for endorsement of the SFI program, the use of fiber from genetically engineered trees via forest biotechnology is not approved for use in SFI labeled products.
The SFI 2015-2019 Standards and Rules requirements regarding research on genetically engineered trees via forest tree biotechnology will remain in place.
SFI Inc. will proactively review and update the SFI 2015-2019 Standard and Rules language and this policy as necessary.
Both the SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard and the SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard have requirements regarding the awareness of the impacts of climate change. Forest land owners, managers and those that purchase fiber from non-certified landowners must individually, or working with partners, broaden the awareness of the impacts of climate change on forests, wildlife and biological diversity. Where available, forest land owners, managers and those that purchase fiber from non-certified landowners must monitor the outputs from regional climate change models regarding long-term forest health, productivity and economic viability (SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard – Performance Measure 10.3 and SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard – Performance Measure 5.3).
SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard Enhancements
The introduction of the SFI 2015-2019 Standards and Rules highlights one of the unique features of the SFI program—addressing fiber supplied from non-certified forest lands, which are often small and family owned. Working individually or collaboratively, SFI Program Participants must work to ensure that the conservation of biodiversity is appropriately addressed through their fiber supply activities.
Performance Measure 1.1 requires a program to address conservation of biodiversity, individually or collaboratively through a program which includes one or more of the following:
utilizing information from organizations such as World Resources Institute, The Nature Conservancy, NatureServe, Conservation International, State Wildlife Action Plans, State Forest Action Plans and assessments
conducting local and regional level landscape assessments
involvement with local or regional conservation efforts
use of relevant information on biological diversity from credible sources (such as those noted above) in approved training and education programs
A new requirement of the SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard (Indicator 2.1.2) pertains to the use of written agreements for the purchase of all raw materials sourced directly from the forest. The new requirement is broadened to include the use of written agreements for all raw materials sourced directly from the forest. These written agreements must include provisions requiring the use of best management practices, as well as the use of qualified logging professionals and/or certified logging professionals and/or wood producers that have completed training programs and are recognized as qualified logging professionals (Indicator 6.1.5). In combination with the longstanding requirement making state or provincial water quality BMPs mandatory for all SFI Program Participants, even in the many states where BMPs would otherwise be voluntary, these provisions provide rock-solid assurance of the protection of water resources under both the SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management and SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standards.
To further clarify the link between the “Certified Sourcing” label and the proactive requirements of the SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard, the requirements for use of the SFI Certified Sourcing Label were moved to an appendix in the SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard. The requirements to use the SFI Certified Sourcing label were also enhanced with management system requirements including procedures for internal audits, as well as more requirements on conducting a risk assessment to avoid controversial sources.
Products that carry Certified Sourcing labels may include:
Fiber that conforms with the SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard
Pre- and post-consumer recycled content
Certified forest content
The SFI certified sourcing label does not make claims about certified forest content, but tells you that fiber in a product comes from a company that is certified to the SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard, or comes from recycled content, or from a certified forest. All fiber must be from non-controversial sources. In order to use “Certified Sourcing” label, the label user must be independently certified by an accredited certification body to ensure they meet the requirements of the Standard.
SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard Enhancements
Performance Measure 1.1. Program Participants shall ensure that forest management plans include long-term harvest levels that are sustainable and consistent with appropriate growth-and-yield models.
Forest management planning at a level appropriate to the size and scale of the operation, including:
a long-term resources analysis;
a periodic or ongoing forest inventory;
a land classification system;
biodiversity at landscape scales;
soils inventory and maps, where available;
access to growth-and-yield modeling capabilities;
up-to-date maps or a geographic information system (GIS);
recommended sustainable harvest levels for areas available for harvest; and
a review of non-timber issues (e.g., recreation, tourism, pilot projects and economic incentive programs to promote water protection, carbon storage, bioenergy feedstock production, or biological diversity conservation, or to address climate-induced ecosystem change).
Documented current harvest trends fall within long-term sustainable levels identified in the forest management plan.
A forest inventory system and a method to calculate growth and yield.
Periodic updates of forest inventory and recalculation of planned harvests to account for changes in growth due to productivity increases or decreases, including but not limited to: improved data, long-term drought, fertilization, climate change, changes in forest land ownership and tenure, or forest health.
Documentation of forest practices (e.g., planting, fertilization and thinning) consistent with assumptions in harvest plans.
To ensure that the forestlands of the United States and Canada represent a diversity of forest types, a new Performance Measure in the SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard (Performance Measure 1.2) prohibits conversion of one forest cover type to another forest cover type except in justified circumstances. Justified circumstances might include, for instance, diversification of species mix to avoid an emerging invasive pest or pathogen (i.e. Emerald Ash Borer) where the viability of a new stand would be jeopardized unless converted to a new mix of tree species.
Furthermore, even if there is a justified circumstance, SFI requires that an assessment be conducted to consider productivity and stand quality conditions. Impacts to be evaluated in connection with the SFI-mandated assessment include social and economic values. They also include ecosystem issues specific to the site, such as invasive species, insect or disease issues, and riparian protection needs. Other considerations include regeneration challenges, ecological impacts of the conversion, including a review at the site and landscape scale, and consideration of appropriate mitigation activities.
A new performance measure in the SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard (Performance Measure 1.3) addresses the issue of conversion to “non-forest” uses, or “deforestation.” An SFI Program Participant shall not have within the scope of their certification to the SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard forest lands that have been converted to non-forest land use. Additional information is provided in SFI Section 6 – Guidance part 3.2. Fiber derived from these excluded lands cannot be described as certified forest content in any product bearing a SFI program label.
The approved use of chemicals in sustainable forest management plays a vital role in prompt and effective restocking of forest lands after harvest. The SFI Standard has long had requirements for minimizing chemical use and protection of water quality. Now two new indicators have been added to the SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard that expand on the existing requirements for chemical use. Indicator 2.2.4 prohibits World Health Organization 1A and 1B pesticides, except where no other viable alternative is acceptable, and Indicator 2.2.5 bans pesticides under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. These new restrictions help align the SFI Forest Management Standard with the PEFC International endorsement requirements. For more information on these chemicals click here and here.
Recognizing that healthy forests touch the lives of everyone, the SFI program has long called for the protection and enhancement of water quality. Independent studies have documented the benefits of consistent and effective implementation of water quality best management practices (BMPs).
Indeed, protection of water quality has been a core requirement of the SFI program since its inception and SFI Program Participants have invested in logger training programs reaching over 150,000 professionals since 1995. The SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard reaches even further, with requirements of Performance Measure 3.2 enhanced to require SFI Program Participants to implement water, wetlands, and riparian protection measures based on soil type, terrain, vegetation, ecological function, harvesting system, state BMPs, provincial guidelines and other applicable factors. Indicator 3.2.1 requires Program Participants to develop and fully implement additional measures to address management and protection of rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, other water bodies and riparian areas during all phases of forest management. Requirements for use of trained qualified logging professionals help ensure effective on-the-ground implementation of these water quality and riparian protection measures.
Maintaining biological diversity is critical to the maintenance of healthy forests and functional ecosystems both at the stand and landscape level. For many years, the SFI Standard has included numerous performance measures and indicators related to conservation of biodiversity at the stand and landscape level, protection of wildlife habitat and protection of rare, threatened and endangered species, particularly G1 and G2 species.
SFI made two significant changes in the SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard related to landscape level conservation of biodiversity.
SFI Program Participants are now required to work individually or collaboratively to support diversity of native forest cover types and age or size classes that enhance biological diversity at the landscape scale (Indicator 4.1.3).
SFI Program Participants are also required to incorporate the conservation of native biological diversity, including species, wildlife habitats and ecological community types at landscape levels (Indicator 4.1.4).
Another significant change in the SFI 2015-2019 Standard relates to increased protection of rare species. A new indicator (Indicator 4.1.5) requires Program Participants to develop a “program to address conservation of known sites with viable occurrences of significant species of concern.”
Finally, SFI has enhanced the guidance provided to Program Participants when determining whether or not a species is significant. A Program Participant may consider rarity, regional importance, and sensitivity to, or reliance upon, forest management activities. Resources for determining rarity may include Nature Serve G or S rankings, the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and federal, provincial or state lists. Resources for determining regional importance may include The Nature Conservancy Eco-regional Plans, State Wildlife Action Plans or other credible conservation plans.
The SFI Standard recognizes the unique values of rare old growth forest types and requires SFI Program Participants to protect old growth forests through support of and participation in plans or programs for the conservation of old-growth forests in the region of ownership or forest tenure – Performance Measure 4.2. This means SFI Program Participants need to actively support and participate in programs to ensure old growth forests are being conserved and they are audited on this requirement. A typical SFI plan may consist of mapping old growth forests as part of an environmental plan, and then developing measures to either manage those stands in a manner that takes into account their unique features under SFI’s Objective 6, or protect the stand under SFI’s Performance Measure 4.3, which identifies ecologically important sites for protection.
Forests have always been central to the cultural beliefs and livelihoods of all indigenous peoples in the United and Canada. In the introduction to the SFI 2015-2019 Standards and Rules, SFI recognizes and adopts the principles outlined in the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which was officially endorsed by the Canadian and American governments in 2010. SFI Program Participants are encouraged to communicate and collaborate with local Aboriginal and Tribal groups in order to better understand their traditional practices and experiences with respect to forest management. In addition, on public lands there continues to be an emphasis on understanding and respecting traditional forest-related knowledge in relation to spiritually, historically or culturally important sites.
The SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard has added a new objective called “Recognize and Respect Indigenous Peoples Rights.” This new objective reflects existing SFI forest management requirements regarding respect for Aboriginal and Tribal rights and values on public lands but now has enhanced provisions for private lands.
SFI 2015-2019 Chain of Custody Standard Enhancements
The marketplace is increasingly concerned with transparency of the on-product labels used on certified wood based products and as such, transparency of labelling has always been a core requirement of the SFI on-product labels. SFI Inc. has introduced an expanded definition of “certified content” as well as a 70% certified content threshold for use of the SFI label.
Furthermore, the SFI program is the only forest certification standard with a centralized label use office to approve, track, and store all label use approvals and claims. Not unique to SFI, but still a major component of the SFI label, is the label ID number. This ID number is unique to each organization who applies for use of the SFI label, which gives an added layer of transparency to the claim.
Average Percentage Method Labels and Thresholds
SFI has a new 70% certified content threshold for average percentage based claims or use of the SFI label.
If an organization wishes to use the SFI chain of custody label or make a chain of custody claim on 100% of an organization’s product, the content must be at least 70% composed of certified forest content and/or recycled material. If recycled content is not used, then the label must state, “Promoting Sustainable Forestry.” If an organization does not meet that 70% threshold, it must transparently disclose the actual percentage of certified forest content or recycled material on the product label. The following two labels may be used by any chain-of-custody certificate holder that drops below the 70% threshold and uses the average percentage chain-of-custody method.
Volume Credit Method Labels and Thresholds
For volume credit based claims and labels, an organization can only make claims or use the SFI label on the amount of certified input (certified forest content and/or recycled content) they have. So if the input of certified content is 30%, the organization can only make claims or use the SFI label on 30% of the output. This is consistent with all global chain of custody standards.
The following two labels may be used by any chain-of custody certificate holder that uses the volume credit chain-of-custody method. If the chain-of-custody certificate holder uses recycled content, then the label must state “Promoting Sustainable Forestry and Recycled Content.” However, if recycled content is not used, then the label must state, “Promoting Sustainable Forestry.”
Certified Content is the definition of what inputs can be used to meet the thresholds for label use. Certified content includes certified forest content (fiber from a SFI, ATFS or CSA certified forest) or recycled content. Furthermore, pre-consumer recycled content is now included under the SFI definition of certified content. This change also aligns the SFI definition with that of the PEFC Chain of Custody Standard.
Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) have been the subject of increased interest. Non-timber forest products are products derived from forests other than round wood or wood chips. Examples include, but are not limited to, seeds, fruits, nuts, honey, maple syrup and mushrooms. Now, with the SFI 2015-2019 Chain of Custody Standard, there is a mechanism for SFI chain of custody certificate holders to account for NTFPs. In order to make claims about NTFPs, the organization shall apply the physical separation method to ensure NTFPs are sourced from SFI-certified lands.
Senior Manager, Chain of Custody and Label Use
SFI UPDATE REGARDING COVID-19
SFI AUDIT GUIDANCE
SFI has issued updated guidance regarding audit restrictions due to COVID-19. We recognize that other requirements related to implementing the SFI Standards, such as logger training, may be disrupted while travel and gatherings are restricted. SFI will issue further guidance as warranted. Questions about audits or standard requirements should be directed to Gregor Macintosh, SFI Senior Director of Standards, at Gregor.firstname.lastname@example.org.