“Wisconsin Doesn’t Want SFI’s Greenwash”
By Adam Gaya, Forest Ethics
Every September, the so-called Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) holds an annual conference. Every year for the last three years, ForestEthics and local activists have been there to confront one of the most misleading greenwashing schemes in North America. 2012 was no different.
On Monday, activists in Milwaukee crashed the phony “eco-label’s” 2012 annual conference to tell participants that Wisconsinites don’t want greenwashing in their state. Their goal: deliver a letter from “Wisconsin Coalition Against Greenwashing,” signed by organizations including The John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club, Milwaukee Riverkeeper and the Center for Media and Democracy. The intended recipient: SFI Executive Director Kathy Abusow.
Immediately upon entering the downtown Hilton Hotel, the small team was spotted by SFI private security detail. Talking into their radios, several men followed the activists towards the conference rooms. Before they could reach the SFI registration tables, the team was surrounded by six burly men with no sense of humor. A stand-off ensued. The activists respectfully stated their intention of delivering the letter, but were told to leave. To accomplish their objective, the team gave the letter to the chief of security, stating, “Wisconsin Doesn’t Want SFI’s Greenwash.”
The SFI and its participant companies are no strangers to protest. Similar protests against the organization’s non-existent standards and lack of oversight disrupted their annual conferences in 2010 and 2011 respectively. And delegates to Greenbuild, North America’s largest green building conference, are used to seeing full-page ads and creative protests calling out SFI Greenwashing. But it was still surprising to see this purported transparent, non-profit “environmental” organization hire an extensive security detail to “protect” delegates from having to speak to local environmentalists.
Maybe its because they know Wisconsinites have good reason to be upset about the SFI’s greenwash. Destructive practices certified by the SFI like widespread clearcutting, logging in roadless areas and massive use of toxic pesticides and herbicides are degrading Wisconsin’s rich northern forests and waterways. SFI certified industrial logging is causing forest fragmentation that prevents the regeneration of important tree species like eastern hemlock and threatens sensitive species like the Northern Goshawk and Brook Trout.
That evening, SFI conference participants headed to what they thought would be a relaxing evening of dinner and drinks at the Lakefront Brewery. While they were waiting in line for their dinner activists dropped a giant banner reading, “DON’T BUY SFI’S GREENWASH” for the captive audience. An hour later, participants lounging on the riverside deck were treated to a canoe mounted banner playing on the SFI’s own slogan by saying “UnSustainable Forestry Initiative, Bad For Forests, Bad For You” (Industrial logging is a major source of pollution into waterways like the Milwaukee River).
The ‘Sustainable Forestry Initiative’ hopes to use its annual conference to convince companies that greenwashing is good for business. But thanks to dedicated activists like you, they are reminded that greenwash doesn’t pay.