Good news for sustainable investors — USGBC to boost ATFS certified forests

Sustainable investors will be interested to know that the US Green Building Council (USGBC) has confirmed it is to give credit to the timber produced from forests that are sustainably certified.

The council has confirmed that it is to encourage a higher rate of responsibly sourced building across the US and the globe by adding a new path to its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. All wood that comes from forests that have been certified under either the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) or other credible forest certification systems, including the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), will now be credited.

The addition has been hailed as a huge victory for forest conservation, forest investors and forest owners. Across the US, the biggest share of the 282 million acres of forests are owned by families or individual investors. The forests are crucial to the health and livelihoods of Americans and the native wildlife, as well as the flora and fauna and clean water systems. The forests also provide the wood that is used to construct homes, commercial buildings, packaging, paper and more.

Kathy Abusow, president and chief executive officer of SFI Inc, said: “We applaud leaders from the US Green Building Council as this change across all LEED rating tools takes a stance against illegal wood and reinforces the value of certified and responsibly sourced forest products.

“SFI employs rigorous standards that ensure not only a responsibly managed forest, but also that only legal sources of fibre are brought into SFI-certified supply chains.”

Those forests that have been certified by ATFS are being overseen by owners or investors that follow a strict protocol for forestry management, to ensure that the forest is being cared for and maintained in the best possible manner. This programme, which has been running for 75 years, supports almost 80,000 tree farmers who manage over 21 million acres of forested land. It is also an internationally recognised certification and is supported by the worldwide Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

The addition to the USGBC’s LEED rating system means that these forest owners and investors that are working to sustainably manage their forested land will now receive the recognition they deserve and will be able to best use the markets — including global supply chains — that their forest resources go to. A increase in the number of markets that are keen on sustainably-sourced wood marks a boost for the forestry owners and investors, as the extra income will help them replant and maintain their land to ensure it keeps on producing precious resources year after year.

Rick Fedrizzi, the chief executive officer of USGBC, said: “LEED is a proven tool, unparalleled in its ability to drive wholesale transformation across every corner of the built environment and raise the bar for all players.

“Requiring architects, builders and consumers to verify the legality of forest products used in LEED buildings is part of its standing as a leadership standard, and the new ACP encourages the use of programmes that certify that practice. This new path to LEED credits also recognises the contributions forest certification standards have made in establishing the infrastructure, which makes it possible to verify responsible sourcing.”

With an increasing interest in sustainable wood from the residential and commercial construction industry — estimates suggest that 50 per cent of US commercial buildings are now being constructed to green standards — forest owners look set to enjoy an increase in wood that has been ATFS-certified. This rising demand will ultimately mean more forests are able to be planted and maintained in a sustainable manner.

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