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Kris Alvarez

Understanding the Distinctions: FSC & SFI Certifications and the Paper Market

Making sure that sustainability in print is really doing what it claims

May 12, 2023 12:22:28 PM


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Sustainability labels are multi-faceted in that, for companies, they help to mitigate any ethical risks associated with their products and, for environmental campaigners, they help push forward systemic change.


Among the 450 different sustainability standards, certifications, and eco-labels around the globe are those offered by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). While both organizations aim to promote sustainable forestry practices, each has their own distinct approaches and criteria. Let’s dive into some of the differences between FSC and SFI certifications, their importance, and their rising prevalence in the printer paper market.



FSC vs. SFI: What’s the Difference?
The primary purpose of the FSC and SFI certifications is to ensure responsible forest management practices, but they originated from different perspectives:

  • Forest Stewardship Council is an independent, non-profit organization that developed its certification system in response to concerns about deforestation and unsustainable logging practices. FSC certification focuses on maintaining and enhancing forest ecosystems, promoting biodiversity, as well as respecting the rights of indigenous communities and workers. FSC has established itself as the leading sustainability certification in the forest products industry. Its certification is widely recognized globally, and many major brands prefer FSC-certified paper to ensure responsible sourcing and reduce their ecological footprint.
  • Sustainable Forestry Initiative was established by the American forest sector to address sustainable forestry practices within North America. It aims to strike a balance between environmental, social, and economic considerations—emphasizing responsible forest management and supporting local communities. While SFI certification is prominent in North America, it is less prevalent on a global scale. However, SFI-certified printer paper products are still available and cater to customers who prioritize North American sourcing and sustainability standards.


In terms of certification criteria and requirements, both certifications share common goals but they differ in several key aspects:

  • Forest Management Standards: FSC certification sets comprehensive guidelines that cover various aspects of forest management, such as biodiversity conservation, protection of endangered species, and the prohibition of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). On the other hand, SFI certification places more emphasis on the economic viability of forestry operations and community engagement.
  • Chain of Custody: Both certifications provide chain of custody (CoC) certifications to ensure the traceability of forest products. FSC CoC certification ensures that wood-based products come from responsibly managed forests throughout the supply chain. SFI CoC certification focuses on verifying that fiber used in the manufacturing process comes from legal and responsible sources.


Why SFI and FSC Labels Matter
In a world marked by environmental consciousness, certifications like those from FSC and SFI allow companies to distinguish themselves from competitors by demonstrating their commitment to responsible sourcing and sustainable practices. Plus, with consumer demand for sustainable products growing daily, sustainability certifications from FSC and SFI play a vital role in differentiating brands and products for consumers. Certified products appeal to environmentally conscious consumers who prioritize sustainability in their purchasing decisions. Consumers expect transparency and eco-friendly choices, and these certifications provide reassurance that the products they purchase align with their values.


SFI and FSC certifications also enable brands to access new markets and customers that prioritize sustainability. Many government agencies, educational institutions, and corporations have procurement policies that require or prefer certified products—creating opportunities for certified brands to expand their reach.

Omnipresence in the Paper Market

Paper mills across the United States, Western Europe, and the Asia Pacific regions have been actively engaged in producing FSC-certified and SFI-certified paper products for years, each actively participating in new growth areas such as eco-friendly packaging solutions, recycling initiatives, and digital transformation in the paper industry. With no dearth of paper products from all the key players in the market, here are just a few of the brands from paper mills certified by FSC and SFI.


Paper Mills

FSC-Certified Brands

SFI-Certified Brands

International Paper

Hammermill, Accent Opaque, Springhill

Hammermill Premium, Accent Opaque


Boise ASPEN, Boise FIREWORX, Boise POLARIS Premium, and Boise X-9

Boise ASPEN 30, Boise FIREWORX Premium, Boise POLARIS Premium Multi-Use, and Boise X-9 Multipurpose





Finch Fine iD, Finch Opaque, and Finch Offset

Finch Fine iD Xtra, Finch Opaque Xerox,
and Finch Offset


Hammermill Premium Multi-Purpose, Accent Opaque, Springhill

Hammermill Great White, Hammermill Fore


Navigator Universal, Navigator Platinum,
and Navigator Eco-Logical

Navigator Expression, Navigator Eco-Logical,
and Navigator Platinum

Stora Enso

Multicopy, Galerie Art

Multicopy, Galerie Art


UPM Office, UPM ProFi

UPM Office, UPM ProFi

Oji Holdings Corp.



Nippon Paper Industries



Asia Pulp & Paper

PaperOne, Sinarline, Paseo

PaperOne, Sinarline, Paseo


Several printer manufacturers have been leveraging FSC and SFI certifications to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.

  • Epson has been using FSC and SFI certifications for their printer paper products. Their inkjet paper products have been FSC-certified since 2011, and their photo paper products have been SFI-certified since 2017.
  • HP has been a pioneer in promoting sustainable printing practices and has been using FSC and SFI certifications since 2004.
  • Xerox offers FSC-certified and SFI-certified paper under their range of Green World Alliance papers and their Vitality Multipurpose Printer Paper, while their Premium Multipurpose Paper is SFI-certified.


Canon has been incorporating sustainable practices in its operations, and its paper products are no exception with their Red Label products, which tout FSC labelling. In fact, Canon recently announced the launch of Red Label Zero FSC and Recycled White Zero FSC, which is marketed as the first cradle-to-customer, carbon neutral wide format papers for the Architectural, Engineering, Construction and Manufacturing (AECM) industry. Both are FSC certified and 100% carbon neutral.

FSC and SFI certified paper products are not limited to just the big OEMs in the digital imaging industry. On the contrary, there are new business areas where these ethically sourced paper products are gaining traction in organizations of all sizes in multiple regions. In India, JK Paper Ltd recently launched a range of FSC-certified office papers under their JK Copier Plus brand. Similarly, Double A (a Thailand-based paper company) has been promoting its SFI-certified paper products in the North American market.


This level of engagement from printer manufactures and paper suppliers in collaborating with the FSC and SFI speaks to the overarching impact each of their certifications in the print space, which is one of many steps in the right direction for the industry.

Keypoint Intelligence Opinion
The demand for sustainable practices is growing, and printer manufacturers are taking steps to promote responsible sourcing in their operations. FSC and SFI certifications provide assurance that printer paper products are sourced responsibly and produced sustainably. Brands like HP, Epson, and Canon have been leveraging these certifications to differentiate their products and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.


With new business areas emerging globally, it is evident that FSC- and SFI-certified printer paper products have cemented their place in the paper market and will play a significant role in promoting sustainability in the printing industry for the foreseeable future.


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