Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s Forest Management Standard 2022

In January of 2022, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) released the SFI 2022 Forest Management Standard, which included two new objectives to address the threats of climate change and wildfire. The SFI Forest Management Standard is the largest single forest management certification standard in the world. Among its requirements are measures to protect water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, threatened and endangered species, and forests with exceptional conservation value. Over 301 million acres (122 million hectares) of forest land are currently certified to the SFI forest management standard in Canada.

It is well understood that sustainably managed forests are an important tool in the global toolbox to combat climate change, as these forests capture carbon faster as younger trees planted and tended after older trees are harvested rapidly capture carbon as they grow. The 2022 SFI Forest Management Standard included revisions and updates to all 17 Forest Management Objectives and the addition of two new Objectives to address and adapt to climate change impacts. These objectives are: Objective 9: Climate Smart Forestry and Objective 10: Fire Resilience and Awareness

The revised standard will combat climate change through:

  • Broad-scale requirements for climate adaptation, mitigation, and fire event reduction (new certification requirements)
  • Application of climate-smart forest management practices with documented benefits
  • Increased research to find new methods and practices

By leveraging expertise across their network through focused engagement, and by including open comment periods, SFI creates standards that are grounded in science, include diverse perspectives, and benefit consumers, communities, and ultimately forests across the U.S. and Canada.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Forests are universally cited as an essential nature-based solution because forests and forest products provide a significant opportunity to counter the impacts of climate change by sequestering and storing carbon and by buffering the impacts of climate hazards. Certification programs such as SFI, act as a driving force in addressing climate change impacts through sound, science-based natural resource management. Through SFI standards, more forests are sustainably managed, which means more effort is put into conserving healthy wildlife, providing clean water, and making more sustainable wood, paper, and packaging products available for consumers and companies.

SFI collaborated with Natural Resource Canada, the Saskatchewan Research Council, and Forest Products Association of Canada to undertake Phase 1 of the “Canadian Forest Carbon Assessment.” Accounting and reliably estimating carbon stocks and fluxes across SFI’s footprint allows for long-term planning, management, and made a case for “Climate Smart Forestry” being a key component of the revised and updated forest management standard.

SFI concluded that standard revisions should include objectives in the following two key themes:

  1. Climate Smart Forestry: Climate change and the need for responsible action to mitigate impacts, are driving resource managers, manufacturers and brand owners toward clear and measurable climate change policy and action. SFI should work to ensure that forest management and fiber-based supply chains are optimized as an effective nature-based solution for climate change and has implemented a new objective focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  2. Fire Resilience and Awareness: Shifts in climate are generating wildfires of increased intensity, frequency and destruction. Undesirable impacts include threatened public safety, human health, property damage, diminished air quality, loss of species habitat, and increased atmospheric carbon. The scale and severity of fires in recent years has resulted in loss of forests and their inherent values at an unprecedented scale. Sustainable forest management reduces the risk of these undesirable impacts of wildfire.

Identifying Actions

Certification programs such as SFI, believe forest landowners and managers have an important stewardship responsibility and a commitment to society, and they recognize the importance of maintaining viable commercial, family forest, and conservation forest land bases. Forest managers are responsible for implementing sustainable forestry practices on the forest tenures and private forestlands they manage and for promoting these practices on other lands as well. SFI supports efforts to safeguard private property rights and to help all private landowners manage their forestland sustainably.

In developing updates to standards, SFI engaged with their Forest Management Task Group to workshop its standard revisions and hear from key stakeholders across the forest sector, including federal, provincial/state agencies, Indigenous groups, forest associations, academics and civil society. The revision process took two years to complete, and involved inviting more than 10,000 people to provide feedback, representing nearly 2,300 different individuals and organizations. This regular, transparent process for revision of the SFI standards is a critical part of SFI’s commitment to continual improvement.


The standard development and revision process took place over a two-year time period which involved:

  • 2020: Second Comment Period and Task Group Meetings
  • 2021: SFI Resource Committee Review, Board Approval, and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) Endorsement Process
  • 2022: Release of the revised standards.

The revised standard has the following two new climate change objectives with these associated requirements and indicators:

Objective 9: Climate Smart Forestry

  • Identify and address climate change risks to forest and forest operations and the development of adaptation objectives and strategies.
  • Develop adaptation strategies to address priority climate risks.
  • Identify and address opportunities to mitigate effects associated with its forest operations on climate change.
  • Determine climate-related material risks (environmental, social and economic climate-related risks and vulnerabilities).
  • Develop a short-list of topics that inform forest management strategies, targets, operations and reporting.

Objective 10: Fire Resilience and Awareness

  • On lands owned or managed:
    • Limit susceptibility to undesirable impacts of wildfire.
    • Promote healthy and resilient forest conditions.
    • Support restoration of forests following wildfire damage.
    • Stand and landscape level management techniques to promote forest health and resilience.
    • Promote restoration and future forest resilience.
  • Community Engagement Efforts:
    • Engage individually and/or through cooperative efforts to raise awareness of and act towards benefits of fire management
    • Minimize undesirable impacts of wildfire to values such as carbon emissions, water quality and quantity, air quality, species habitat, public safety, and human health.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

In addition to updating the standard, SFI also collaborates on conservation and climate-related projects that help SFI certified organizations in assessing their forest lands and meeting the new standards. The following are a selection of some of those projects:

  1. The Forest Climate Resiliency Project:
    • Provided SFI Program Participants with an approach to establish baseline conditions.
    • Useful for assessing resilience to climate change and monitoring its effects over time.
    • Project Partners: Manomet, Hancock Timber Resource Group, Lyme Timber Company, Maine SFI Implementation Committee, Resource Management Service, LLC
  2. Better soils from better soil management key to a better climate future:
    • Provided SFI Program Participants with an approach to establish baseline conditions.
    • Useful for assessing resilience to climate change and monitoring its effects over time.
    • Project Partners: Manomet, Hancock Timber Resource Group, Lyme Timber Company, Maine SFI Implementation Committee, Resource Management Service, LLC
  3. Forest soils Assessment Tools:
    • Developed an approach for including soils in forest carbon calculations.
    • Useful for increasing understanding of whole-ecosystem carbon dynamics, as well as the impacts of forest management on the entire forest carbon pool.
    • Project Partners: American Forests, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, University of Michigan, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Weyerhaeuser

Next Steps

The next steps of the project starting from the standard release date include:

  • January 2022: Release of the new standards and all new certificates issued to new standards.
  • April 2022: All recertifications issued to new standards and all surveillance audits to the 2022 or 2015-2019 Standards.
  • January 2023: All certificates transitioned and SFI 2022 standards and rules replace 2015-2021 standards and rules.