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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Sept/Oct 2003 : Frontlines


Conserving a Classic Resource
Three US BCSD projects link sustainable business practices to sound forest management

By Callie Lasch and William Burnidge

One of the most important approaches to sustainable development comes through projects that yield tangible results. Lessons learned and benefits derived are increasingly valuable as the world community searches to find direction and solutions to our environmental challenges.

The U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD) is an organization that models this approach. The council’s work is project-based, delivering results that demonstrate the business value of sustainable development at the operations level. The US BCSD also seeks to educate and inform its members through forging cooperative partnerships and networks with government, academia and community groups. Through these activities, the US BCSD assists businesses as they anticipate emerging environmental and social trends that may impact their activities.

The majority of the US BCSD’s efforts are in the industrial sector. Industry, like all businesses, is ultimately dependent upon natural resources—whether it’s water to run manufacturing plants, raw materials for products or the human capital needed to interface with customers. Managing those resources sustainably impacts the business’ ability to operate successfully.

The council also recognizes the importance of applying broad strategies to the issues. For example, building supplies, paper, climate change, water quality and wildlife habitat are all linked to one classic resource: forests.

Since 1997, the US BCSD has worked in partnership with conservation groups, universities, landowners and forest products companies to identify and realize the environmental, economic and social benefits of converting frequently flooded agricultural lands into sustainably managed forests. Currently, the US BCSD has three projects underway in its Sustainable Conservation Program. Each project strives to put sustainable development concepts into action.

* The US BCSD’s Ecosystem Services Initiative seeks to develop markets for undervalued natural processes by which the environment provides society with such critical resources as a stable climate, clean water, timber, wildlife habitat and plant pollination. Forest ecosystems may provide enormous economic value through such processes as carbon and nutrient sequestration or wetland mitigation. The goal of the US BCSD’s Ecosystem Services Project is to simultaneously provide for the restoration and sustainable management of ecosystems while developing an economically viable, market-based alternative for businesses to equitably meet their environmental needs and obligations. For example, landowners planting trees in response to the sustainable forestry initiatives of US BCSD’s Sustainable Conservation Program may be in an excellent position to sell carbon offsets to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Beyond carbon sequestration, the US BCSD is following developments in forest-based nutrient sequestration related to water quality as another potential market and source of revenue for forest landowners.

* The Lower Mississippi Valley (LMV) Sustainable Forestry Project establishes forest belts along the Mississippi River and its tributaries from Southern Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico on frequently flooded croplands. The goal is to establish mixed bottomland hardwood forests on tens of thousands of acres in the years ahead. Over 5,000 acres of such forests have been established as of 2003. These forests will deliver multiple environmental, social and economic benefits at farm, regional and international scales. Businesses will benefit from an increased supply of timber and pulp and better communities and environments providing quality of life for their employees. The project’s forest establishment efforts are financed by a public-private partnership that pays farmers to interplant commercially and environmentally valuable hardwoods on their frequently flooded cropland. To clear the way for this collaboration, the US BCSD conducts outreach to (1) improve the targeting of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s conservation programs for forest establishment and (2) educate farm owners throughout the LMV on the economic, environmental and social opportunities that are created by these forests.

* The Texas-Louisiana Longleaf Pine Project was established in 2002 to promote the restoration of longleaf pine on non-industrial private land in east Texas and west Louisiana. The project will establish 5,000 acres of long-leaf pine by 2005 to assist in restoring the ecosystem, educate landowners on the value of longleaf pine, and establish a long-term economic resource to the region. Longleaf pine now occupies approximately three million acres of an ecosystem that historically covered approximately 90 million acres in the southeastern U.S. To reach its goals, the project will conduct agency and landowner outreach to improve targeting of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forest-promoting programs, conduct workshops and participate in demonstration projects to promote the viability of longleaf pine restoration for wood and fiber supply, landowner income, ecological benefit and social well-being in the project area.

Callie Lasch is director of communications and William Burnidge is manager, Sustainable Conservation Program, for the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development. For information, including membership, visit or contact Burnidge at 512-892-6411; e-mail:

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