Sustainable Forestry Initiative

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

SFI Inc. claims to be "a fully independent, charitable organization dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management. We work with conservation groups, local communities, resource professionals, landowners, and countless other organizations and individuals who share our passion for responsible forest management." [1] In reality, the group is a front group for the forest products industry.[2]

SFI Greenwash

Forest Ethics, a non-profit environmental organization, accuses SFI of greenwashing for industry, saying the organization is a "self endorsement scheme ... created by the industry devoted to cutting down trees." In a report published in November, 2010, Forest Ethics describes SFI as follows:

With slick ads in publications like The New Yorker and Fortune, SFI has used profits made from forest destruction to convince big brands to promote the SFI program, including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and American Express. This deceptive marketing started when the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) –- the primary trade association for a $175 billion per year industry –- determined that its members’ products would sell better if they were perceived to be ‘sustainable’. SFI was spun off as a non-profit in 2001, but little else has changed since its birth as a marketing scheme for AF&PA..SFI’s website, materials, executive speeches, and advertisements all vigorously claim that SFI is independent. Yet, virtually all of SFI’s funding comes from the paper and timber industry, thus conclusively refuting SFI’s claim to independence. Worse still, this funding arrives in SFI’s accounts as tax-deductible donations, for which AF&PA members directly benefit in the form of tax-free advertising...Despite its ‘Good for you. Good for our forests.’® logo, SFI certifies logging practices that have a disastrous impact on North American forests. Here is a short list of the practices approved by SFI that are not good for our forests:

  • Threats to rare wildlife. SFI’s rules do not require any work, within areas they certify as ‘good’, to restore forests that are essential for the survival of rare wildlife.
  • Clearcuts. The average clearcut approved by SFI is the size of 90 football fields. Whether it’s the ‘average’ SFI-approved clearcut or bigger, the cumulative impacts to watersheds, water quality and soil productivity are often permanent.
  • Widespread toxic chemical use. SFI allows excessive use of toxic chemicals such as pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides that contaminate fresh water.
  • Endangered Forest destruction. SFI provides virtually no protection against the destruction of old-growth forests, wild areas that do not currently have roads, or other places in which ecological values are especially rich.[3][4]


Accessed May 2010: [5]

Board members representing the environmental sector, which includes non-profit environmental or conservation organizations:

Board members representing the social sector, which includes community or social interest groups such as universities, labor, family forest owners or government agencies:

  • Marvin Brown (Chair) State Forester, Oregon Department of Forestry
  • Mary Motlow (Secretary-Treasurer) Representing family forest owners
  • Richard W. (Dick) Brinker - Dean and Professor, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University
  • William V. Street, Jr. - Director, Woodworkers Department, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

Board members representing the economic sector, which includes the forest, paper and wood products industry or other for-profit forest ownership or management entities:

Sourcewatch resources

External resources




  1. About, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, accessed May 9, 2010.
  2. ForestEthics SFI: Certified Greenwash - Inside the Sustainable Forestry Initiative's Deceptive Eco-Label, report,, November, 2010
  3. Forest Ethics Stop SFI Greenwash -- The Issue, organizational website, accessed September 11, 2011
  4. ForestEthics SFI: Certified Greenwash - Inside the Sustainable Forestry Initiative's Deceptive Eco-Label, report,, November, 2010
  5. Directors, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, accessed May 9, 2010.