Being fair can be particularly tricky when you're an organization that prides itself on being open and democratic. That's the challenge facing the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) as it moves closer to a vote on whether to change its standards to a system intended to permit more wood groups to have their green certifications qualify for LEED points. Its main problem: Who will get to vote?
On most issues, the USGBC settles issues by letting all 16,000 of its members vote. But for the wood-certification fight–one of the longest-lasting, most contentious battles the green building movement has ever seen–USGBC leaders decided to restrict the voting population to a "consensus body." In such a group, none of its three major constituencies (users, producers, and general interest) can constitute more than 50% of the voters.
Earlier this summer, USGBC invited its members to opt into the group. After the opt-in period ended July 21, the council was planning to review who opted in and decide whether, as USGBC senior vice president Scot Horst put it, the consensus body is "naturally balanced." There was no word by press time of what USGBC had determined.
Horst couldn't say what would happen if it turns out that one of the three constituencies makes up more than 50% of the opt-ins. "That would present a unique challenge," he told ProSales, adding later: "That's something we'll have to deal with coming up." As yet, USGBC hasn't revealed what it would do.
All this matters because of the split between people who regard it as unfair that only wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council qualifies for LEED points and those who believe the other certification schemes are pawns of the timber interests and don't represent the best green practices. The pro-change forces, led by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), have argued that a USGBC panel has ignored them as the panel drafted standards that would have to be met by any wood-certification group seeking LEED recognition.
SFI lately hasn't spent much time lobbying USGBC or its members who have the power to decide the issue. Instead, SFI and its allies have invested much of their time recruiting governors, members of Congress, and ordinary citizens to press USGBC to open its standards.