Forest certification and green building standards: Overview and use in the U.S. hardwood industry

Omar Espinoza, Urs Buehlmann, Bob Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The environmental movement has emerged as a response to society's concerns about the sustainability of Earth's natural resources and the effects of human activity on the environment and on society's well-being. Effects such as deforestation, air and water pollution, and resource depletion have shown to cause a decline in the quality of life of humans. In response, concerned citizens, non-governmental organizations, and governments have started initiatives to ensure the responsible utilization of our natural resources. Two of these initiatives in particular are relevant for U.S. hardwood products manufacturers: forest certification systems and green building standards. The former are standards created with the purpose of ensuring the sustainable utilization of the forest resource. Most forest certification systems also offer a chain-of-custody certification, to assure customers that label-carrying products indeed originate from certified forests. Green building standards were created to reduce the environmental impact caused by building construction and use. This paper presents the results from a survey of U.S. hardwood lumber manufacturers, with the objective of learning about the industry's awareness and perceptions about forest certification and green building systems and the impact of the environmental movement on the industry. Questions asked ranged from familiarity with different systems for forest certification and green building standards to these systems' financial and market impact on hardwood lumber industry participants. Responses show that industry participants are more familiar with forest certification systems than with green building standards. Among forest certification systems, the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) is the most recognized, followed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Almost 30 percent of respondents reported holding some type of chain of custody (COC) certification and 26 percent stated that obtaining certification was in their plans. Out of the respondents who participated in COC certification at the time of the study, only 25 percent reported having benefited financially from it. Awareness with green building standards among respondents is low in general, but the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the National Green Building Standard were the most recognized. When asked what the industry should do to obtain the maximum benefits from the environmental movement, most respondents, 36 percent, suggested that the industry should do more to educate the public on the environmentally-friendly nature of hardwood products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-41
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
StatePublished - Sep 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded, in part, by the USDA Forest Service's Wood Education and Resource Center (WERC), Princeton, WV, and by Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA .


  • Chain of custody certification (COC)
  • Forest certification
  • Green building standard
  • Hardwood lumber
  • Sustainable forestry
  • U.S. lumber industry


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