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[GreenYes] WSJ article on certified wood

May 23, 2001


Timber Industry Goes to Battle Over Rival Seals for 'Green' Wood


Environmentalists trying to save endangered forests are squaring off 
the timber industry over dueling seals of approval for lumber.

Many environmentalists dreamed of the day when consumers shopping for
"green" lumber would be able to seek out wood with a logo from the Forest
Stewardship Council, an international accrediting organization that
certifies wood harvested in well-managed forests. Over the past two years,
large retailers like Home Depot Inc. and Lowe's Cos. agreed to show a
preference for wood certified by the council, and the dream seemed to be
fast becoming a reality.

But not fast enough. Before the seal had a chance to catch on, other 
started rolling out seals of their own. One of the most ambitious efforts
involves the industry trade group American Forest & Paper Association, 
members own tens of millions of acres of forested land in North America. 
group plans to put its logo on forest products that comply with the 
Sustainable Forestry Initiative. To promote its program, it has hired True
North Communications Inc.'s Bozell Chicago, creator of the "Got Milk" ads,
and plans to wage a $25 million advertising campaign.

The association's seal will make Big Timber one of the largest industries 
join the eco-label movement, under which sellers of commodities like 
tea and cocoa market their goods in the U.S. as "fair trade" certified in
compliance with green growing standards.

But the group's logo, scheduled to come out this fall, is already 
controversy. Rainforest Action Network, a major force in the campaign to
persuade Home Depot to show a preference for the Forest Stewardship
Council's logo, has called on the group to cancel its label launch. "It's 
hideous form of green washing," says Randy Hayes, the network's president.

Chief among the environmentalists' complaints: that the Sustainable 
Initiative is largely an industry-run program that's soft on members like
Pacific Lumber Co. The Scotia, Calif.-based unit of Maxxam Inc. was 
to continue to participate in the program even though -- by its own
account -- it was responsible for about 300 violations of California state
forestry practices between 1996 and 1999.

In addition, with little input from outside interests, critics say the
program has few environmental safeguards. For example, program rules allow
an average of 120 acres -- the size of 116 football fields -- to be cut
clear of trees. Under the environmentalists' program, "clear cuts" larger
than 40 acres are discouraged. The industry's rules also put no constraint
on the use of timber-management chemicals such as herbicides, while the
competing rules call for minimal to no use of chemicals.

The industry group responds that environmentalists' criticisms betray a
fundamental antagonism toward the business of forestry. "Some 
groups don't think trees should ever be cut down," says Michael Klein, a

Though the program allows for larger clear-cuts and doesn't restrict the 
of herbicides, opponents' criticisms are misguided, backers say. They 
that herbicides are government-approved and generally used once or twice
over the life of a tree, which can span from 20 to 80 years. Also, the 
says, the average size of clear-cuts by its members is 60 acres, not 120.

As for Pacific Lumber, it isn't certified but simply enrolled in the
program, which requires that companies show "continuous improvement" in
forestry practices. Pacific Lumber is doing this, say group officials.
California state officials confirm that the company's violations have
dropped sharply.

So far, customers like 37-year-old Dennis Manalo, who was shopping 
in the lumber section of a Home Depot in Colma, Calif., are in the dark. 
don't know anything about standards," said the San Francisco postal 
"All I know is my fence blew down and I have to find more lumber."

But that will change. The industry group has indicated that it will 
its advertising budget if there's a need. And last month, the Forest
Stewardship Council launched its own advertising campaign featuring actor
Pierce Brosnan. The group, which is based in Oaxaca, Mexico, says the ads
weren't a preemptive strike and that it has advertised several times since
its standard was instituted almost a decade ago. The ads make no mention 
the rivalry between the two standards.

The industry group's program had its origins back in 1995. An industry 
force set guidelines on proper forestry practices, and companies complied
with them following an honor system. Enrollment was mandatory for all

In 1999, the group added a "certification" program. To use the product 
and become certified, members had to let a "third party," or an outside
auditing agency, assess their practices. Last year, a Sustainable Forestry
Board, made up of industry leaders, academics and environmentalists, was 
up to adjust and set certification standards.

To sort through the he-said-she-said tenor of the certification war, 
like Home Depot have launched studies to assess the two standards.
Meanwhile, industry officials and some environmentalists say groups like 
Rainforest Action Network can't continue to support the Forest Stewardship
Council to the exclusion of other certifications. Though Home Depot says 
is stocking more FSC wood than it did when it started the program two 
ago, the Council is far from certifying enough to fill the retailer's
shelves. In addition, customers have so far been unwilling to pay a 
for certified wood, industry experts say.

Still, all sides agree that the environmentalists have fundamentally 
the way timber companies do business by pushing for certification. That
leaves many in the industry confused and frustrated, says Bob Simpson,
national director of the American Tree Farm System, which certifies trees
grown on private property.

"I don't see why they don't see this as a victory," says Mr. Simpson.
"Instead of fighting, environmentalists should help us manage the forests 
a sustainable way."

Write to Queena Sook Kim at and Jim Carlton at

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