Overview of Program Enhancements

Drawing from the most comprehensive SFI Program Participant and open public review and comment period in the history of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Standard, the Sustainable Forestry Board has adopted (8/17/01) an extensive set of changes to the SFI Standard and associated Verification Procedures. The changes are the culmination of several months of committee and task group work and a 40-day open public comment period. The Board sought comment from all interested parties on every aspect of the SFI Standard – Principles, Objectives, Performance Measures, Core Indicators, and Other Indicators. The SFI Verification Procedures and Qualifications for Verifiers were similarly open for a more technical but no less thorough review. To view the full SFI Overview, SFI Standard, SFI Verification/Certification Principles & Procedures and SFI Qualification Criteria for Verifiers, use the link at the bottom of this page.

Types of Changes

Program enhancements could be categorized in one of four areas:

  • Those yielding greater program specificity and thus a greater degree of measurability;
  • Those formalizing original intent or which were implicit but unwritten;
  • Structural or programmatic changes that are part of the broader application of the standard and the natural maturing of the program; and
  • Editorial changes to enhance program understanding and consistency in application.

    Operational Procedures

    Since its inception the SFI program was intended as a program that can be adapted to many types of forestry operations. That said, the breadth and depth of the program clearly are more applicable in larger corporate settings than on small non-industrial ownerships. Building on a mutual recognition agreement with the American Tree Farm System® – a standard specifically designed for smaller non-industrial owners – the program added needed flexibility to ensure that the Standard is appropriately adapted to the scope and scale of the operation. For example, it is common for large integrated companies to use sophisticated Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to aid in resource analysis and planning. Such technology may not be readily available to organizations with just a few employees and little or no land ownership.

    Program Reach or Intent

    To ensure a common understanding and to further reinforce SFI’s intent to “build upon” forestry and environmental laws and regulations, a sixth overarching principle – legal compliance – has been added.

    Similarly, the SFI program has always encompassed the three prongs of sustainability – environmental protection, social responsibility and economic viability. We continue to believe that the market place is the best judge of economic viability. The primary focus of SFI has been on environmental compatibility of sound forestry operations. Social responsibility has always been a key component of all aspects of SFI from the programs’ inception. We have reinforced this commitment by formally addressing social responsibility in the SFIS. These changes speak to the commitment of SFI to set clear and unequivocal measures for SFI Program Participants and for those who look to the Standard as an assurance of quality forest management.

    To promote consistency of application across the system, Core Indicators formerly applied only to third-party certifications, are now applicable for all Program Participants.

    Review Cycle

    Since its inception in 1994, the SFI program has been opened on an almost annual basis for program changes and enhancements. While such was necessary in the early days of the program, at this stage of maturity and given the expansive reach of the program, annual changes can be highly disruptive to Program Participants trying to implement changes. Thus, with the adoption of these changes the SFB is instituting a planned review cycle that will retain one of the SFI program’s foundational commitments to “continual improvement” to build on new scientific information. The next round of reviews and calls for public comment will be in 2004 with the SFB adopting any necessary program enhancements in the fall of 2004 for implementation beginning on January 1, 2005.

    Specific Changes

    Some of the more recognizable and significant changes are as follows:Site Productivity

  • Expanded the types of planning and analysis activities to promote not only forest production but also to enhance conservation of critical resources.
  • Added provisions to address the use of exotic tree species to avoid unintended environmental impacts.
  • Strengthened procedures for use of forest chemicals including provisions to minimize use and ensure application of materials with low ecological impacts.
  • Expanded field observational measures to ensure minimization of site impacts on productivity – e.g. rutting and compaction.
  • Clarified the intent to minimize road construction so as to keep as much land in productive forests as is practical.

    Environmental Protection

  • Enhanced provisions on application of BMPs to protect water quality.
  • Required plans to address wet weather harvesting and potential site impacts.
  • Greatly expanded commitments to protect non-forested wetlands and to use available natural heritage data to protect known sites of high ecological value.* Raised training requirements to address threatened and endangered species.
  • Expanded provisions to promote wildlife habitat criteria at the forest stand and landscape levels.
  • Added new provisions to encourage Program Participants to expand programs to protect critically imperiled sites and species.
  • Reinforced SFI’s commitment to a sound scientific foundation and the application of new information.
  • Broadened training requirements to improve aesthetics of managed forests.


  • Among the most significant and far-reaching changes is the requirement for “verifiable” systems to ensure that wood coming from non-owned lands is produced legally and in keeping with BMPs.
  • Raised expectations for participation in regional governmental resource assessments.

    Continual Improvement

  • Strengthened provisions to ensure program implementation and reporting of progress within Program Participant organizations.

    Certification Procedures

  • Instituted a new auditor accreditation program that ensures that all training and professional credentialing requirements are met and that application in the field meets expectations.
  • Clarified expectations that audit teams have all necessary professional expertise represented building on the current provision as the only broad forestry standard in the U.S. that requires professional foresters on every certification team.
  • Institutionalized the current practice of audits being based upon both system- and field-reviews.
  • Formalized the practice of interviewing outside parties where appropriate.* For all program participants planning to use the on-product label, added periodic surveillance audits between recertifications to further enhance program quality and accountability.
  • Added a formal appeals and disputes resolution process outside of the current ISO framework that will allow any party to raise claims about Program Participant conformance.

    Auditor Qualifications

  • Raised minimum training and experience requirements for certifications to that of Environmental Management Systems Lead Auditor.

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