There is a debate raging between the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – and LEED certification is caught in the middle. Treehugger reports that the latest battleground is in North Carolina, which recently introduced legislation that would effectively ban LEED in the state. The legislation follows on the heels of similar bills that banned LEED in Maine and the Department of Defense in 2011. Is this an ominous sign of things to come as more state governments bow down to the almighty dollar – or will protecting the world’s forests prevail?
LEED certification is highly desirable in the construction market, and everyone wants to be a part of it. Right now, wood certified by the FSC is the only wood acknowledged by the LEED system because it has proven to be environmentally sustainable. But the SFI wants to be a part of the process as well. The only problem is that most people consider SFI certified wood to be significantly less environmentally friendly than FSC wood. Rather than improving their own standards, the SFI has chosen to fight for acceptance, claiming that LEED has created a monopoly for FSC wood.
After years of fighting, — and failing — to be accepted by LEED, the SFI has changed tactics. Instead of trying to be a part of LEED, they now want to get rid of it. Their latest move is to lobby states to ban LEED on the basis that it is unfair to American-grown wood. The SFI claims that the FSC favors foreign wood and so builders should support locally grown lumber. Besides being untrue, it’s also misleading to consumers – SFI wood avoids foreign labor markets because they don’t want to enforce fair labor practices and respect the rights of indigenous people.
In North Carolina, this has translated to legislation that proposes that any certification process in the state must give equal weight to SFI and FSC certified wood. Only time will tell if North Carolina will pass the legislation and if other states will follow suite.