Promoting the Sustainable Use of Forests with Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s Jason Metnick

July 29, 2013

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to Green is Good, and we’re so excited to have on the line today Jason Metnick. He’s the Vice President for Customer Affairs from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Welcome to Green is Good, Jason. JASON METNICK: Thanks, John, for having me. I appreciate it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You know, Jason, before we get into the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, can you share with our listeners a little bit what got you here? You’re a young guy. You could have gone any way you wanted in life and the world’s in front of you and how did you get to this position in life? JASON METNICK: Sure. It’s really just my love for the natural resources and the outdoors. I got a Bachelor’s of Science in forestry from Northern Arizona University and that really set my journey for where I am today. I’ve been with the SFI, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, for going on 12 years now and it’s been a great ride and really, great to see the growth in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative over that last decade. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For so many listeners out there, let’s start at square one. What is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative? JASON METNICK: The Sustainable Forestry Initiative is a voluntary third-party certification standard. SFI, or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative is an independent nonprofit organization and what we do is we promote sustainable forestry and responsible purchasing of forest products. We work to ensure the health of the forests for generations to come and really support those people and communities who depend on that forest resource. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, for our listeners out there, you have a beautiful website and if they want to follow along while we’re doing this interview, I’d love them to do that. I would like them to go to SFIProgram.org. It’s just really a first-class website and you’ve done a great job here with this, Jason, and for our listeners out there, go to the website and continue looking at all of Jason’s great work and learning about all the great things the Sustainable Forestry Initiative is doing. Getting back to that, I would like to discuss some other items with regards to what is your main cause there? What are you promoting there? JASON METNICK: Our main cause is really promoting the sustainable use of forest products and we do that really through that environmental standard of forest management standard. That’s really the core of the SFI program and that really sets how we go about accomplishing the assurances that we can provide those consumers, those customers out there that the products they’re buying every day are coming from responsibly managed forests. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Okay, this is interesting. I’ve seen forests my whole life. How many forests even are there in the United States or around the world that you’re concerned with and then how many are part of your program and how many are yet to come that you want to get to become part of your program? Because this is fascinating to me. It’s something that I’ve never heard about. I’m sure our listeners have never been exposed to this and I can sense the importance of sustainable forestry. What’s the marketplace look like? JASON METNICK: Right, so backing up a little bit, if you look at just the general concept of forest certification, forest certification really started around the early ’90s and it started as a way to provide those assurances to those consumers out there that the wood products, the paper products, the packaging products that come from these forests, they’re coming from responsibly managed forests, they’re coming from sustainable forests and what SFI does is we have 114 different indicators within our environmental core standards that landowners have to manage to so all the key attributes like biodiversity, water quality, looking after soil and streamside buffer zones, all those environmental attributes that then at the end of the day, the consumer can be assured that this product that they’re buying is coming from responsibly managed forests. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s so interesting, and I’m just gonna give a silly analogy here, but when we started hearing about and learning about drinking coffee that was made on a fair trade basis or clothing made on a fair trade basis, is it something similar to that in that now you’re also creating sort of the fair trade or you’re the certifying body for all the wood products that are coming out of forests? JASON METNICK: Correct, so this is a third-party certification program similar to the other one that you mentioned. SFI, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, we actually set the standard through our independent, publicly available process, but what’s really unique and what really provides that credibility and matisse behind the SFI program is there are actually third-party auditors separate from SFI, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, that’ll actually audit those landowners to make sure that they’re actually following the guidelines and the requirements of the SFI standard, so it’s not SFI making that determination that the landowner is doing good things. It’s actually done by this independent body, and there’s some pretty well-known audit firms that actually will do this type of forest certification auditing, groups like PricewaterhouseCoopers, certification in NSF ISR are just some of the auditing firms that actually will do these audits on the ground. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow, so SFI develops the standards, but you have these great and very legitimate incredible third-party bodies that are governing the SFI programs? JASON METNICK: That’s correct. So, SFI is governed itself by an independent board of directors. We have an 18-member board of directors that represents the environmental, social and economic interest groups, so it’s really that three-legged sustainability model that we modeled our board of directors after and it’s a senior level board of directors with well-known groups and academia and other leaders within the forestry community that help set what the SFI program is about, our standards, etc., and so then it’s these independent auditors that then provide the credibility around the actual assurances and claims in the marketplace. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, then when I’m building a new house or doing a new project, building a new room in my house or doing anything that comes from wood, how do I see your Good Houseleeping Seal of Approval? What should our listeners out there look for to make sure that your great organization, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, has approved these materials? JASON METNICK: SFI does have an on-product label that consumers and customers can look to for that proof point that the products they’re buying are coming from SFI-certified organizations. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, we can see what it looks like on your website? JASON METNICK: Absolutely. You can go to SFIProgram.org/buySFI and you can view that label and see more information about how you can go and purchase products from these SFI-certified organizations. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, for our listeners out there who just joined us, we’re so happy and lucky to have Jason Metnick on with us. He’s the Vice President of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which is he’s doing great and important work that we don’t get to hear about all the time but work that affects us all and we should all be aware of and again, for his great organization, it’s SFIProgram.org. Go into some of the key issues that you address through your standards, key forestry issues that are addressed through your standards. JASON METNICK: Right, so some of those key issues, the SFI standard is made up of many different principles, indicators, performance measure and some of those key issues that we do look at include issues such as biodiversity, reforestation after a harvest, looking at water and soil quality, minimizing chemical use on the forest, and so it really is those key environmental factors to look at how forests are managed in a responsible and sustainable way. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Jason, is this certification that the SFI has created, is that just for the U.S. or you’ve taken this to forests around the world also? JASON METNICK: The Sustainable Forestry Initiative forest certification only applies to the United States and Canada, and so we do have our scope. It is in the U.S. and Canada. However, we do partner with other global forest certification programs that look at these issues on a global scale, groups like the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification is one organization that we work with on a global scale. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Again, I just want to go back to the macro opportunity, what gets you out of bed in the morning. What percentage of our forests in the United States now are managed by SFI or at least are under your certifying body and what percentage is yet to go, which is still yet to come? JASON METNICK: Right, so that’s really the key driver. There still is a lot of work to be done. On a global scale, only 10% of the world’s forests are certified under programs like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. If you look right here in the United States, only about 20% of the U.S. timberlands are actually certified under a program like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, so that is why we still have work to do. We still have outreach and training opportunities out there to really get to those landowners and get to additional resources to provide these tools so that all these lands can be managed in a responsible and sustainable way. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Well, that’s why we’re lucky to have young brilliant people like you that are just really taking the journey to the next level for us. That’s the exciting news so talk about that then. If you’ve got 80% yet to get, talk a little bit how are you going out there, Jason, and encouraging more participation from these landowners and mills? JASON METNICK: Well, we’re working with really the customers in the supply chain and really providing that market poll in the supply chain. Large publishers have these paper policies. They obviously buy lots of paper. Organizations and companies like Time Inc., National Geographic, McMillan and Pearson. They buy large amounts of paper and they want to know that the paper that they’re buying is coming from a responsibly managed source and so what they did last year is these four publishers; Time Inc., National Geographic, McMillan, and Pearson, came together and said how can we grow certified lands and so we formed this SFI force partners program to really look at cost-effective ways to get to these landowners who may not be certified and really help them, providing the tools that they need to move to forest certification, to move their lands towards responsible management and through this forest partners program, we are starting to see growth and uptake in the SFI standard and more landowners becoming SFI certified. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You know, Jason, we’re down to the last two minutes or so and again, what we love to do on this show and you’ve done a great job, you’ve framed the problem, you’re talking about some of the solutions that SFI is working on with your leadership also there with your colleagues there but now let’s talk about what our listeners could do. How could our listeners become part of the solution there and now that you’ve given them great information, how can they become engaged? JASON METNICK: So, the number one thing that they can do is really look for that SFI label on the wood, the paper, the packaging products that they may buy every day, whether it’s going to your local do-it-yourself retailer for a home improvement project or going to the office supply section in your local store for your paper products and so by looking for that label, by asking those retailers for products that are certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative standard, your listeners can really help provide that market demand for these products out there. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Gotcha, and the other thing, Jason, we got listeners all around the United States and actually around the world, young people who want to become the next Jason Metnick. They are so fascinated by young people like you who have chosen this path to not only do good but do well and that can get up every morning and feel like they’re making a difference and changing the world. Any advice in the last 35, 40 seconds for our young listeners out there how to find a path that’s similar to yours to wake up every morning and feel like they really get to change the world? JASON METNICK: Yeah, what’s great is sustainability is really becoming a mainstream word and there’s a lot of tools out there. There’s a lot of programs. There’s a lot of companies that are really paying attention to these issues and so I’d suggest that this really is a topic where if companies aren’t looking at sustainability right now, they’d better be because there are young professionals out there in the marketplace that are willing to step up and help make a difference. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s great and for our listeners out there again, please go and learn more about Jason’s great work with his colleagues over at the Sustainability Forestry Initiative. Go to SFIProgram.org. As Jason said earlier, please go and support all Sustainable Forestry Initiative products, whether it’s a magazine that you buy or whether it’s the wood that you buy that’s for a project in your home or something of that such, you’ve gotta help Sustainable Forestry products that’ll help this movement go forward. Jason Metnick, you’re a sustainability superstar and truly living proof that green is good.