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How to Use Nature to Make Progress Across Several ESG Goals

Investors and shareholders leading the push for greater ESG performance recognize that ESG challenges are complex, evolving and nuanced. The Family Forest Carbon Program allows companies to address a range of critical ESG issues that benefit the environment and rural communities.

Although the coronavirus put global markets on pause virtually overnight, what has not abated is the increasing stakeholder pressure for corporate transparency, sustainability and social impact. Rather, in many cases, the pandemic has amplified the importance of corporate action on critical ESG issues present in today’s interconnected society, such as climate change impacts, supply chain continuity, and engagement on community challenges.

How can corporate leaders undergo their own recovery and meet these ESG expectations that push for a better, smarter and more sustainable future?

One of the simplest and most prolific options is by investing in nature — more specifically in the nature in America’s backyard — its family- and private-owned forests.

The Family Forest Carbon Program, a new program created by the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, can help businesses do just that — by bringing together rural family forest owners and companies to address climate change together.

For companies, the Family Forest Carbon Program helps address a multitude of ESG pressures deemed important to the investment community, customers and the general public. Companies that invest in the program are able to address their residual emissions that are impossible to otherwise eliminate, provide economic stimulus to rural communities, and improve our forested environment and the benefits it produces.

The program engages and empowers family landowners to improve forest health and maximize the carbon sequestration potential of their forests. Families and individuals collectively own the largest portion — 38 percent — of all forests in the US, yet less than 1 percent of these lands are able to participate in current carbon markets; this is due to complexity and upfront costs. The program opens carbon markets to small forest holdings across the nation.

The Family Forest Carbon Program takes a new approach — compensating landowners for implementing science-based forest-management practices that enhance forest health; and in turn, increase carbon sequestration potential. Monitoring and measurement of the carbon is then conducted based on the observed changes in their forest from these practices, rather than through time-intensive carbon inventories. This innovative new methodology, being vetted by Verra for approval under its Verified Carbon Standard, ensures a credible and replicable model for scaling impact by the collective efforts of rural landowners.

The program goes beyond just verified carbon credits that help companies address their residual emissions. The program addresses a range of critical environmental risks, such as biodiversity and enhanced ecosystem resilience, by simply helping forest owners improve forest health. As climate change impacts increasingly threaten the welfare and livelihoods of societies worldwide, the Family Forest Carbon Program reduces this threat at the local level while simultaneously ensuring the long-term health of natural assets and the long-term viability of wood product supply chains.

Just as important, the program provides critical economic opportunities for rural families. Despite what most think, the majority of family forest owners are not wealthy landowners — but average Americans. Caring for a forest can be overwhelming and expensive, and even more difficult in an economic downturn. The Family Forest Carbon Program will open up new markets for these landowners to bring in income from their land, as well as provide access to the technical support family forest owners need in order to be impactful contributors to combatting climate change.

The investors and shareholders leading the push for greater ESG performance recognize that ESG challenges are complex, evolving and nuanced. Participation in the Family Forest Carbon Program provides companies with a platform for addressing a range of critical ESG issues that positively impact the environment and rural communities. Ultimately, it provides an opportunity for board rooms around the country to demonstrate to stakeholders that they get it, they’re listening, and they’re putting their money where it matters.

For more information, visit https://www.forestfoundation.org/family-forest-carbon-program.

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