What do lingerie and groceries have to do with certified lumber? Take a look at the back of the latest Victoria’s Secret catalog or on the bottom of a paper bag from Safeway or Lucky’s, and you’ll see brand logos from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), respectively.

The competing lumber certification bodies—which certify working forest acreage, as well as the paper, pulp, fiber, and solid lumber goods derived from such forests—have always had a contentious relationship. But things are heating up in a brand battle that also includes certification standards under the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

Once a hard-to-find, premium-ticket item, certified lumber has become commonplace on the racks of building material retailers. Its use in the manufacture of flooring, cabinetry, doors, windows, and siding also is on the rise.

Simply put, all certified lumber carries a promise that it comes from a sustainably managed forest. Regardless of the acronym, the message is the same: Rest easy, because we didn’t clear-cut the rainforests, destroy animal habitats, or otherwise screw up the environment in the making of this product.

In the ever-greening global economy, that promise carries saleable weight, say certifiers and product distributors, and certified lumber consequently has enjoyed a surge in demand. Certified lumber also qualifies builders for points under various green building programs. As certified lumber commands more market share through these programs and increased awareness, certifiers are in a no-holds-barred wrestling match to get their brand identity front and center.

Cola Wars

The competition for visibility is an interesting one, considering that, unpromoted, certified lumber is typically sight unseen within green building projects.

In an applied setting, certified lumber does not reduce energy usage, make the building more efficient, or reduce harmful emissions. Its greenness lies in the guarantee that it comes from sustainably managed professional forests. By using it, you can earn points or credit within most green building programs, add substance to your marketing message, and feel good that you are not contributing to rainforest depletion, unfair trade practices, or the complete disregard for natural resources and virgin ecosystems.