If there is a definition for business and non-profit “collaboration,” then a new partnership between Procter & Gamble (P&G), 3M, International Paper (IP) and the American Forest Foundation (AFF) sets a very high bar. The three companies announced at Sustainable Brands in Detroit that they will work with AFF to boost sustainable forestry efforts across the coastal Carolinas region.
The project, which will continue for at least three years, will receive almost $300,000 in funding from P&G, IP and 3M. The goal is to engage and educate landowners across several counties in North and South Carolina in order to highlight the benefits of various forest certifications and sustainable forestry practices.
By 2020, the Carolinas Working Forests Conservation Collaborative will strive to achieve several goals, including:
- Increase awareness and understanding of the importance of sustainable forestry and active management among the thousands of woodland owners, who together own 2.4 million acres of forestland in the Carolina coastal plains region.
- Partner with at least 450 landowners across 36,500 acres across various counties to provide them with technical assistance and resources to enhance forest management.
- Engage a minimum of 160 woodland owners within the project area to enhance, restore or expand coastal forests and quality habitat for at-risk species on at least 13,000 acres.
TriplePundit sat down with Manuel Ceja, Family Care Sustainability Leader at P&G, during Sustainable Brands Detroit to learn more about the program.
AFF staff will conduct the outreach and training with individual landowners in order to bolster sustainable forestry efforts across the region. As individual trees are harvested by IP, pulp from both hard and soft wood fibers will be sold to P&G and 3M. The long fiber pulp in particular is important to P&G, as Ceja explained that it allows branded products such as Charmin, Puffs and Bounty to be “soft and strong,” as their customers have come to expect over the years.
But in return for the occasional harvest of selected trees, landowners will benefit from a reliable source of revenue on their terms, while ecosystems across the coastal Carolinas have a greater chance to thrive. Such an extensive outreach effort by AFF is important as 87 percent of forests in the U.S. south are in private hands, according to World Resources Institute estimates. Two-thirds of those lands are owned by individuals and families, many of whom held the land for generations.
Meanwhile, the coastal plains of the Carolinas confront a bevy of deforestation and other environmental challenges, from development to climate change and even sea level rise. As a result, there are approximately 500 at-risk species across the forests of the Southern U.S., which are dispersed across these privately-owned lands.
“Landowners don’t know what they have, and they don’t know how to protect it,” explained Paul DeLong, Senior Vice President of Conservation for the American Forest Foundation.
But this partnership will allow AFF to work with thousands more landowners. AFF will provide the education that will convince more owners to jump on this conservation bandwagon. The organization uses “local boots on the ground,” a source of economic development, to provide responsible forestry training, which will include pointers on fostering ecosystems that will harbor the at-risk species, as well as what is involved in selecting the trees that will be sold to a responsible timber company.
The program is similar to a partnership P&G has launched with the pulp and paper supplier Domtar, which in turn works with local landowners in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas on sustainable forestry and conservation initiatives.
P&G says all of the pulp and paper within its supply chain is certified one way or another, but the holy grail is certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The problem P&G and other consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies have faced, however, is that there is not enough FSC supply to meet demand. This forestry program in the Carolinas will offer a lift to P&G’s long-term goal. One step in that process is the company’s announcement that its Puffs line of products will all be FSC certified by the end of this summer.
This partnership is a win for 3M as well, as the company will have more certified fiber for its wide range of products, from sticky notes to packing tape. “The sustainable practices this project enables will provide lasting benefits to landowners, forests, and our business,” said Jean Bennington Sweeney, Chief Sustainability Officer of 3M.
Image credit: Gary Dincher/Flickr