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 councils
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 BCSDs efforts are in the industrial
sector. Industry, like all businesses, is ultimately dependent upon
natural resourceswhether its 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
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 BCSDs 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 BCSDs 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 BCSDs
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 projects 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 Agricultures
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
Agricultures 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
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 www.usbcsd.org or contact
Burnidge at 512-892-6411; e-mail: William@usbcsd.org.