Some have questioned my contention that the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement recognizes the legitimacy of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative forestry-certification standards, which some of the agreement's signers have criticized as inferior to the Forest Stewardship Council. (See Environmental Groups Make Surprising Concessions in Canadian Forest Deal.)
There was no mention of SFI in the press releases that were sent out yesterday, but the abridged version of the agreement (the full agreement is not publicly available) contains the following language:
Goal 1. World-leading Boreal “on-the-ground” sustainable forest management practices based on the principles of ecosystem-based management, active adaptive management, and third-party verification.
In achieving this goal, FPAC, FPAC Members, and ENGOs believe it is important to build on existing work (the standards in the existing three major certification programs) rather than build a new (fourth) set of standards from scratch. [A footnote adds: Canadian forest managers can certify their forest management practices to one of three internationally recognized forest certification programs: the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).] These standards of practice will be jointly developed by December 31, 2010, and implemented by December 31, 2012.
The objective is to develop a concise document that outlines the key principles and management approaches (from both a substantive and process perspective) that FPAC, FPAC Members, and ENGOs agree are required to achieve ecosystem-based management (EBM) in Canada’s Boreal Forests. In developing this document, the intent is to:
a) Base these standards of practice on the elements of each of the three existing certification programs (i.e., the practices used to apply the standards of each of the programs on the ground as evidenced by the current certifications) that best embody an ecosystem-based management approach, using as a reference point the on-the-ground application of the existing Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) National Boreal Standards;
b) Provide for verification of compliance with these standards of practice through third-party audits (e.g., as currently provided for as part of FPAC membership’s existing sustainable forest management (SFM) certification commitment);
c) Establish principles and procedures to govern the audits of such standards of practice based on best auditing practices in the Boreal:
i) The topics included in these principles and procedures will include (but not be limited to) the required qualifications of auditors, the selection of auditors, consultation, field sampling protocols, the time frames for addressing corrective action required, transparency of audit results, etc.; and
ii) The intent is that these principles and procedures be efficient and avoid audit duplications;
d) Recognize the role of formal and informal voluntary conservation areas within the managed landscape;
e) Base this work on the best available information;
f) Provide for continuous improvement through active adaptive management; and
g) Undertake this work in a manner that is efficient, cost-effective in both its development and implementation on forest tenures, and respectful of the auditing processes and procedures of the three certification programs, as well as in a manner that does not result in a premature process of standards revision.
That doesn't mean that certification schemes won't be a point of contention among the organizations that signed the agreement. After all, ForestEthics has accused SFI of tax fraud and greenwashing, saying it is a "phony" scheme that benefits from tax-deductible contributions from "environmentally controversial companies" like Weyerhaeuser, which also signed the agreement.