FAQs: What is FSC- or SFI-Certified Paper?

Since Conformer encourages all of our customers to use environmentally sustainable paper stocks, this question comes up a lot.  What does FSC-certified mean?  Is that the same thing as SFI-certified?  What’s the difference?

FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council.  This is a non-profit organization that provides a third-party certification service to the paper industry to “promote management of the world’s forests.” It ensures that your paper is coming from sustainably harvested forests, meaning that it comes from a renewable source.  According to the FSC website, “plantations must contribute to reduce the pressures on and promote the restoration and conservation of natural forests.”   How does it do this?  The Forest Stewardship Council has developed a Chain of Custody process — effectively, an inventory management system —  that enables you to trace your paper stock back to the tree it was harvested from, thereby ensuring it came from a sustainably managed forest.

If the manufacturer is FSC-certified as an organization, that gives them the right to placed the FSC logo on products it manufacturers.  Alternatively, if the manufacturer is not FSC-certified but simply sources FSC-certified paper stock, your sustainably harvested paper is still exactly that but cannot have the FSC-certified logo printed on it.  Both are viable and “good” options.

SFI stands for Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and it is also an independent auditor of good forestry practices.  It is simply an alternative to FSC-certification and is just as good an indicator of sustainably harvested paper stock. 

These two organizations can be greatly credited for ensuring that trees get planted on this planet by the very industry that depends on them.  There’s some unconventional wisdom at play here, but I can’t think of another industry more committed to planting trees than the paper industry.  And that’s good news for our planet.

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com

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5 responses to “FAQs: What is FSC- or SFI-Certified Paper?

  1. Thanks for helping to raise awareness about the value of third-party forest certification. By choosing SFI- or FSC-labeled products, consumers can put a demand on helping to improve forest management. With just 10% of the world’s forests certified to any certification standard, all groups should work together to increase certified forestlands. Learn more by visiting our website http://www.sfiprogram.org.

  2. There are important differences. A web search will tell you all you need. Here is one source: http://www.yale.edu/forestcertification/pdfs/auditprograms.pdf

    • You have referenced a study from 2001 that is so outdated that it is laughable. As a printer who has dealt with both organizations, I prefer to work with SFI. In the end the programs need to be user friendly to encourage adoption. The folks at FSC are known more for roadblocks than stepping stones to compliance.

      • Daniel – Thanks for your feedback – but what 2001 study are you referring to? I don’t believe we’ve made reference to any studies within this high level overview of sustainable certification.

  3. I never heard of SFI until this morning when I was given a “take-out” cup of tea and I noticed the logo. So glad to know that there is such a program enforced. Thank you.

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