Conservation Impact — Capturing the Value of CertificationDec 09 2015
We all instinctively know that conservation is a good thing. But how do you measure its impact? PEFC’s North American member, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), is working hard to quantify the conservation impact of SFI’s work and its connection to sustainable supply chains and presented its progress yesterday at the PEFC Forest Certification Week in Montreux, Switzerland.
With close to 270 million acres (100 million hectares) of forest land in North America certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard, we know intuitively that SFI’s conservation impact must be considerable. This impact is driven by the rigorous requirements of the SFI forest management, chain-of-custody and fiber sourcing standards. One simple requirement, that SFI Program Participants must support forest research, has resulted in more than $1.5 billion invested since 1995.
But relying on intuition is not enough. We need measurable metrics based on sound science and research to really understand and convey value. These metrics must be repeatable and also make sense to the general public. Work is beginning now, through our conservation grants program, by targeting projects that focus on measuring the impact of conservation.
The impact of SFI will be hard to measure, because it reaches across so many conservation-related activities. In 2014, SFI Program Participants reported nearly 300 projects, helping to conserve a tremendous variety of rare species, from plants to animals, to birds, and even insects. Some of the animals subject to research and management on land certified to SFI include the Humboldt marten, bald eagles and lynx. Program Participants are also working on behalf of yellow-eyed grass, one of the rarest plants in Tennessee, Saddle Mountain bittercress and Flett's groundsel, to name just a few of hundreds of species that are benefitting from responsible management within the SFI program.
By understanding the details of conservation actions, we can better translate those values so that they can be understood by a wide range of audiences. Topics like water conservation, climate change and biodiversity are useful lenses for us to use to quantify the important conservation work happening in the SFI community. And, given that SFI is a part of the PEFC family, PEFC’s endorsement of SFI means that our conservation success stories are also a part of PEFC’s success globally.
The more we can use data to make the connection between responsible forest management, conservation impact, and sustainable supply chains, the more we can encourage good decisions by both forest managers and consumers. That’s good news for conservation and good news for forests.
By Paul Trianosky
Paul Trianosky is the Vice President of Conservation and External Affairs at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative®. SFI Inc. is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management.
All photographs by Jorge Romero (JRPD).