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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

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February 2002

Why get certified?

Certification is a fact of life in some woods, sawmills and stores.

Natasha Kassulke & Kirsten Held


While certification is voluntary, landowners and manufacturers see it as a way to stay efficient, find new markets remain credible and identify areas for improvement.

It can be argued that America's forests don't need certification. Many are well managed without carrying a label. Federal and state government programs already encourage private nonindustrial forest landowners to protect the resources and are assisted by cost-sharing grants, deferred property taxes and landowner recognition programs.

Some consumers feel good about buying certified wood. A recent Purdue University study found that 68 percent of the people surveyed would pay more for furniture from a sustainably managed forest. About 34 percent said they would pay 6 to 10 percent more; 23 percent would pay 1 to 5 percent more.

"Today's logging and forestry practices in North America are generally good from an environmental standpoint," notes Dave Tormohlen, a resource manager for Louisiana-Pacific in Tomahawk. "But we can do even better if we adhere to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative program. We can make forests healthier and more productive, while protecting soil, air and water quality and providing the other important forest amenities. Continuous education of the general public, landowners, loggers and foresters is crucial to that improvement."

Being certified adds credibility to a business' claim to sustainable management and that is a key issue for consumers and businesses alike. Marketing wood as certified also can lead to increased market share and new customers. Some manufacturers are banking on a growing consumer market for "green" label wood products just as recycled products and organic foods have become more common in the marketplace.

But we are not quite there yet.

Most demand for certified products comes from industrial and retail companies. The Home Depot, Colonial Craft and Anderson Windows purchase Forest Stewardship Council-certified products.

A marked certified log. Some certification programs track trees from the time they are planted through to harvest and manufacture. © Kirsten Held
A marked certified log. Some certification programs track trees from the time they are planted through to harvest and manufacture. © Kirsten Held

Certified timber is increasingly specified for building purposes. A leading Scandinavian construction company, JM, built the world's first FSC-certified apartment building in August, 2000. More than 70 percent of the wood used was certified.

The Body Shop sells some bathroom products (wooden combs and shaving brushes) that originate from certified forests. Some printers and publishers are signing up for certification. In December, 2000, BBC Wildlife Magazine became the first consumer magazine to carry the FSC logo. Wisconsin lumber and paper industries are being purchased by foreign business that sell globally and are keenly aware of international standards and demand.