New Sustainable Forest Certification Program in USA

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A short while ago I commented on an initiative by the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) to establish a new wood certification standard for U.S. sustainable forest management. I was skeptical of the NWFA’s ability to undertake this project credibly given its reputation for issuing promotional press releases with highly torqued environmental claims.

Everyone should be given a chance to improve, however, and if the NWFA can just tone down its rhetoric and employ some valid metrics along with its use of phrases like “carbon neutral,” it might help everyone in the industry. Wood flooring and other wood based products certainly have relative environmental benefits so why create skepticism with flimsy hype.

That said, let’s look at forest management certification, one of the biggest consumer issues for environmental claims in wood-based building materials in North America.

The NWFA’s program seeks to certify as sustainable some 30 forests in the American Appalachians. At present, the NWFA points out, the well-known Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification applies only to one per cent of U.S. forests and therefore forces environmentally concerned American consumers to purchase off-shore woof flooring products. Add to this the current US and world economic turmoil, and nationalistic American consumers have an added incentive to purchase domestic products.

The NWFA plan is a good one if maintains a high standard for sustainable forestry, and it has some pressure to do so since its initiative has already received endorsements from the FSC as well as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace. A smart move by the NWFA, whose executive director Ed Korczak is quoted (Floor Covering Weekly September 15, 2008) as saying: “When we put the program together we wanted to make sure it was accepted by the environmental community and not look like green washing.”

I’ll look at other forestry certifications in my next post.

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Colin Laughlan