VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – An official investigation has been launched into the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) after a complaint filed by Ecojustice on behalf of several leading environmental organizations in November 2022. The launch of the investigation is a key step towards holding SFI accountable for greenwashing forest products.
The Competition Act makes it illegal for organizations to make false or misleading claims that deceive the public about the products or services they offer. If the inquiry by the Competition Bureau finds that SFI has mislead the public, it may require SFI to not only remove all ‘sustainability’ claims from its public communications about the SFI standard, and from the name of the program itself, but to also publicly retract its sustainability claims and moreover, pay a fine of up to $10 million directed towards conservation projects.
Shane Moffatt, Head of Nature and Food Campaign, Greenpeace Canada said:
“SFI certification is just a rubber stamp for business-as-usual and more forest destruction. That’s no solution to climate change or biodiversity loss. Instead, federal and provincial governments must step up to protect forests and threatened wildlife across the country with stronger laws.”
Devon Earl, Conservation Specialist, Alberta Wilderness Association said:
“Forest certification systems must hold industry to an honest standard of sustainable forest management. The launch of an investigation into SFI is a step towards protecting our forests and the ecosystem values they provide.”
Kegan Pepper-Smith, Managing Lawyer, Ecojustice said:
“The Competition Bureau’s investigation into the SFI’s forest certification standard is welcome news. This greenwashing misleads consumers by encouraging the purchase of wood products sourced from some of Canada’s most at-risk forests, and it needs to stop.”
Torrence Coste, National Campaign Director, Wilderness Community said:
“Cutting down thousand-year-old trees in the most ecologically at risk old-growth forests that governments have stated they want to protect is the furthest thing from sustainable, yet that’s exactly what’s happening in some SFI-certified logging operations. Logging corporations should not be allowed to greenwash the destruction of irreplaceable forests, and so we’re pleased to see the Competition Bureau investigating our complaint.”
Raymond Plourde, Senior Wilderness Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre said:
“We’re very pleased to see the Competition Bureau of Canada undertake an investigation into the environmental claims of SFI and the companies that promote this certification scheme as a guarantee of environmentally responsible forestry practices. Forestry companies under the SFI certification standard can still clearcut natural mixed-species forests, spray glyphosate to suppress natural re-growth and replace them with softwood plantations, all while claiming to be “green” to the marketplace. It is classic industry greenwashing, and it needs to end.”
In December 2022, Ecojustice representing Greenpeace Canada, Wildlands League, David Suzuki Foundation, Alberta Wilderness Association, Wilderness Committee, Ecology Action Centre, Nature Nova Scotia, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, and a forestry professor from the University of Toronto, filed a complaint that the Sustainability Forestry Initiative’s (SFI) ‘sustainable’ logging certification is ‘misleading’ and ‘false’.
The SFI, which is backed by the logging industry, has long been called out by environmentalists across North America for giving the impression that its forestry certification scheme is sustainable even though the SFI does not impose any requirements ensuring that logging will be sustainable. Moreover, there is no on-the-ground assessment to confirm sustainability; instead, all SFI does is certify that a highly discretionary process was followed. The ‘sustainability’ certification allows clearcutting, spraying of toxic chemicals, and logging in the primary habitat of threatened species such as caribou and spotted owl. The SFI’s misleading certifications have contributed to unsustainable logging on an immense scale not just in Canada but across the globe.
The SFI also proclaims that its operations “voluntarily meet Canada’s leading national standard for sustainable forestry” through the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Sustainable Forest Management Standard. A similar complaint by Ecojustice, surrounding the Canadian Standards Association’s (CSA) forestry certification standard, is also pending investigation from the Competition Bureau since the summer of 2021.