Green certifications: knowing what each certification represents
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
FSC is the gold standard when it comes to ensuring sustainably harvested trees. They’re an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization created in 1993 that has developed an in-depth system of checks and balances to promote and secure the responsible management of the world’s forests. When you see printers that are FSC certified, understand that they went through a six-month (minimum) screening process to understand how to be part of this credible link between responsible production and consumption of forest products. The FSC label enables consumers and businesses to make purchasing decisions that benefit people and the planet as well as provide ongoing business value. Currently, FSC is represented in more than 80 countries and has a website full of guides and resources.
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
SFI is the single largest forest standard in the world, with more than 240 million acres certified in North America. Its premise: that responsible environmental behavior and sound business decisions can coexist to the benefit of communities, customers and the environment. Established in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, it is now an independent, non-profit organization that promotes sustainable forest management through certification of forests and fiber sourcing. The SFI chain-of-custody certification enables buyers to see the amount of certified, responsibly sourced and recycled content in a product.
Rainforest Alliance Certified
The Rainforest Alliance works at both ends of the production cycle, aiming to conserve biodiversity while ensuring sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and—ultimately—consumer behavior. Established in 1987, it certifies and verifies forestry and agriculture products and tourism services. What makes the Alliance unique is its work with the people whose livelihoods depend on the land, whether for food production, wood harvesting or tourism. This relationship-building approach creates an open dialogue with all parties, to achieve an ever-shrinking environmental footprint. The Rainforest Alliance seal of approval on a product tells you that it was grown or made sustainably.
Cradle to Cradle
Cradle to Cradle is a framework that focuses not on reducing a company’s environmental footprint but on producing a positive footprint, by reinventing industrial design processes. Certified products must use safe materials that can be either recycled into other products or composted back into the earth. So instead of adding to landfills, certified products go back into the production stream. Established in 2005, the system is now run by the non-profit Green Products Innovation Institute. The Cradle to Cradle logo indicates that a product has met minimum criteria for the health and reusability of its materials, as well as for renewable energy use, water stewardship and social responsibility in its manufacturing.
PEFC, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, promotes good practices throughout the supply chain for forest products. Founded in 1999 as a non-profit international umbrella organization providing independent assessment, endorsement and recognition of national forest certifications, PEFC is now the world’s largest forest certification system. Two-thirds of all certified forests around the world bear the PEFC seal of approval: That’s 565 million acres—an area the size of Mexico—managed in compliance with PEFC’s sustainability benchmarks. The PEFC label indicates that a manufacturer follows best practices related to biodiversity, sustainability and social welfare for workers, communities and indigenous peoples.
Green-e is leading the charge in the United States to certify renewable energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction programs. Founded in 2008, it is administered by the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions through three programs: Green-e Climate, which sets consumer-protection and environmental-integrity standards for GHG emission reductions sold in the voluntary market; Green-e Energy, which certifies and verifies renewable energy programs; and Green-e Marketplace, which verifies companies’ claims about their renewable energy purchases. The Green-e label aims to inform consumers and to encourage energy retailers to offer more sustainable energy services.
EcoLogo aims to help buyers find sustainable products and to help environmental marketers find buyers. Certification confirms that products and services meet stringent environmental standards for multiple attributes throughout their entire life cycle, connecting quality with performance. The non-profit program, launched in 1988 by the Canadian government, is recognized worldwide and run by UL. It awards the EcoLogo label only to products and services that are verified by an independent third-party auditor as complying with EcoLogo standards.
Additional videos on sustainable forest management