Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between FSC and SFI


FSC, the Forest Stewardship Council’s certification system and SFI, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative by the American Forest & Paper Association are systems which were developed by management groups representing the environment and forests.

For the long-term protection of the Northern Forest of New York, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, special efforts were made to implement “sustainable forestry” standards. These efforts were started as public concern was growing over the timber quality, loss of diversity in the forest, and aesthetic values due to forest practices which were unsustainable. Certification systems and auditing systems were developed to help protect the forests, and these two systems, FSC and SFI, are two of the most prominent systems.
The main goals of the auditing systems are:

They are responsible for assuring the public that a landowner is demonstrating a total commitment towards an economically viable and ecologically healthy forest.
They provide advice on how to perform better in the future and provide individual assessment of their present management.
They are responsible for ensuring respect towards culture and rights of local communities and indigenous people.


The FSC requires a third-party audit. The SFI does not require a third-party audit.
The FSC measurements are based on performance. When SFI management systems are adopted, they may or may not bring performance changes.
Many ecological indicators which are very detailed and comprehensive in nature are used for the FSC. The indicators used for the SFI are general and optional.
The guidelines followed by the FSC are stricter when it comes to maintaining old forests, maintaining genetically enhanced species and exotic species, standards for chemical use in forests, and strict rules towards forests being converted into plantations. The SFI has standards but they are not very stringent.
The FSC focuses primarily on local communities and indigenous people maintaining their exclusive culture and tries its best to set standards to respect them. It has been seen that the SFI does not focus so much on these communities.
The FSC provides processors, consumers, and retailers a particular labeling system and Chain of Custody Certification which allows them to be sure that the wood they are using comes from a forest which is well managed. The SFI does not provide any certification or labeling system which matches the FSC system.
An annual audit is required for the FSC system. The SFI has no such annual audit required.
The FSC requires a mandatory public reporting by companies which are certified according to the system as well-managed forest operations. The SFI does not require any public reporting. It has been seen that the FSC is definitely more transparent in its operations than the SFI though both are really important as two major initiatives made towards protecting the forests.


1.There are many differences between the FSC and SFI. The main difference is the way they operate.
2.The FSC is more transparent, more focused on respecting local communities, has stricter rules to manage and protect the forests, and requires annual audits to make sure that the public knows about the companies which are participating in managing the forests. The SFI has the same objective of protecting the forests but is less transparent and has more lenient standards to achieve their objectives.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for bringing attention to responsible forestry. However, the points about SFI are unfortunately misinformed. SFI is the world’s largest single forest certification standard, is based on science, governed by an independent 18-member board representing economic, social and environmental interests equally, and backed by independent annual third-party audits (many of whom audit more than one standard, including FSC). The SFI Program is ingrained in local communities across the US and Canada through our 37 SFI Implementation Committees (http://www.sfiprogram.org/sustainable-forestry-initiative/outreach-training.php) and has had a transparent chain-of-custody and labeling program since 2006.

    Read more on what others are saying at http://sfiprogram.org/newsroom/?p=767 and download our SFI-FSC comparison document to see the many similarities between the two programs here: http://www.sfiprogram.org/files/pdf/SFI_FSC_comparison_2010.pdf. With just 10% of the world’s forests certified, groups should work together to increase responsible forestry.

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