Mars, McDonald’s, Staples and several other companies have signed on to support the American Forest Foundation (AFF), GreenBlue, the US Forest Service and Esri in the development of a new forest sustainability tool. The digital mapping tool, called Forests in Focus, will complement forest certification by assessing the sustainability of family-owned forests at the landscape level, or across a wood supply region, in the United States.
“Forests in Focus will help companies that source wood fiber have confidence that their supply from family woodlands is consistent with the values of sustainability and respect for the environment. This in turn will help sustain existing and support new markets for forest products for these families, giving them the income needed to continue to manage sustainably,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of AFF.
Collectively, 21 million individuals and families own for more than one-third of all forests across the US – more forest land than the federal government or corporations. These lands collectively supply more than 50 percent of the wood harvested and flowing into supply chains.
“We have found that collaboration with a diverse array of partners, such as AFF, GreenBlue, the Forest Service and Esri, has provided us a deeper understanding into our supply chain and the importance of family-owned forests,” said Rachel Goldstein, Global Sustainability Director at Mars. “Collaboration and innovative technology solutions are essential for companies such as ours to better understand how we can support the sustainability of forests.”
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Forest certification has historically been used to provide assurance that specific practices are being used at the individual property level. While families and individuals continue to become certified each year, adoption rates remain relatively low. Forests in Focus is designed to complement existing forest certification systems, to show how all of the individual practices add up to sustainability at the landscape scale.
In addition, Forests in Focus will support companies in achieving their sustainable sourcing goals, by identifying gaps in sustainability across family forestland, and providing them with opportunities to create positive impacts through engagement of family landowners.
“If market forces can align around a shared understanding of the real issues facing forests in a region, the potential for positive impact is immense,” said Nina Goodrich, Executive Director of GreenBlue. “Forests in Focus provides companies that opportunity.”
In order to provide a comprehensive view of family forestland, Forests in Focus will aggregate data from multiple sources, including from the US Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA), which includes status and trends in forest area and location; in the species, size, and health of trees; in total tree growth, mortality, and removals by harvest; and more. Esri, the global leader in spatial analytics will use ArcGIS, the world’s leading GIS platform to analyze this data and produce rich, multi-faceted visualizations of the assessment results.
Mars, McDonald’s, Staples and other companies that source wood fiber from the US will provide input in the tool’s development and, once complete, use the tool to inform their sustainability strategies. Several of these companies are among the 15 members of GreenBlue’s Forest Products Working Group, a network of companies within the Sustainable Packaging Coalition that rely on forest products. The working group has been working with AFF through a multi-year partnership to develop solutions such as the Forests in Focus tool.