By Sarah Billig
No successful company gets very far in the world by squandering its assets. This idea seems obvious enough, but considering the fact that a World Bank projection estimates the world will produce nearly 11 million tons of trash daily in less than a century, it’s clear that not everyone has received that simple message.
In my line of work, producing redwood lumber, we get daily reminders of this wisdom. It’s an operating philosophy that marries old sensibilities with newly-gained wisdom of our relationship to the world around us. It’s also knowledge that all companies can benefit from.
Our company was formed with the idea that it is possible to manage commercial forestland with high standards of environmental stewardship and at the same time, operate a successful business. For a redwood company, success hinges on the healthiest growing environment for our trees that are planted exclusively for harvesting and milling.
That means long-term planning to manage our industrial forestlands in an environmentally responsible, socially acceptable, and economically viable fashion. We categorize the habitats and features across our lands, and identify sites and areas of high conservation value.
It is a layered approach, with operating conservation plans for each species found on our lands. For example, a comprehensive road and hillslope conservation plan is designed to reduce sediment inputs into streams to protect fish habitat.
A necessary element of planning is reporting, so we monitor forest and stream conditions to ensure that the conservation measures implemented are accomplishing the desired outcomes. It’s hard work, but the results make each effort worthwhile.
At Humboldt Redwood Co., we use a single mill to process each log we harvest, and two distribution centers positioned to help us quickly and efficiently supply our customers with products they need. Those facilities only represent the final stages of a process that is planted in our 327 square miles of coast redwood forestland – land that spans across 60 Northern California coastal watersheds, some 305 miles of fish-bearing streams, and nearly 1,100 miles of streams supporting non-fish aquatic life.
Not every manufacturer requires the same exact operating conditions to ensure product quality. But after a pause and consideration, they will find similar connections back to maintaining certain natural habitats and how they affect their finished products’ quality promises.
In other words, if we don’t take care of those resources critical to our businesses, we won’t be in business in the very near future.
Working in a forest helped me develop a new appreciation for the careful balance that can be accomplished between nurturing our planet’s and our business’s health. We rely on the earth to provide the perfect incubator that literally grows our product to a consistently high quality that consumers have come to expect. It only makes sense, then, that we treat our forestlands with a sense of responsibility for the next generation of business owners.
Any company that manufactures and sells goods knows how important it is to responsibly source the materials needed. There are valuable lessons to be learned from putting sustainability ahead of profit and growth, and how doing so supports your success as a company.
Images courtesy of Humboldt Redwood Co.
Sarah Billig is Director, Stewardship at Humboldt Redwood Company. HRC is working to cultivate a lasting legacy of environmentally responsible forestry and sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution of top-quality redwood lumber products.