International Sustainable Forestry Coalition formed to unify asset class’s voice

Asset managers New Forests, Gresham House, Dasos Capital and Rayonier are among 10 firms that have founded the ISFC to help shape frameworks and policies affecting the nascent natural capital asset class.

A group of leading forestry companies have formed a new body to help the sector speak with one voice on issues relating to climate change, biodiversity loss and halting deforestation.

The International Sustainable Forestry Coalition has launched with 10 founding members: Dasos Capital, F&W Forestry, Gresham House, Marubeni, Mitsui & Co, New Forests, Oji Holdings Corporation, Rayonier, Stora Enso and UPM.

The body’s convening chair is David Brand, the recently retired CEO and current chair of asset manager New Forests with Ross Hampton serving as executive director. Hampton was recently CEO of the Australian Forest Products Association and chair of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ Advisory Committee on Sustainable Forest-Based Industries.

Brand told Agri Investor ahead of the ISFC’s launch that the organization’s genesis came out of a desire to bring together different parts of the sector to try and standardize processes around carbon accounting standards and biodiversity monitoring, as well as to gain a more joined-up understanding of international forestry markets and how the sector can feed into the UN’s Biodiversity COP events.

“We have this core of 10 businesses, which we hope to expand over time, that will try to put out a coherent narrative around how the forestry sector can contribute to these different policy processes, as well as put forward suggestions on how some of this stuff can work technically, so that it can be implemented,” he said.

“A lot of forestry and land use businesses have significant analytical capacity and decades of experience in dealing with things like forest inventory and monitoring of forest conditions – we can bring a lot to the process, and there was a feeling the forestry sector was not being engaged in some of these processes.”

The ISFC will launch and have a presence at Climate Week NYC, which begins on September 17, as well as the upcoming COP 28, which will be held in the United Arab Emirates in December.

“The idea is to try and get this natural capital asset class plumbing in place, if you will, so that collectively we can all implement it and drive it forward. Ultimately, that is what asset owners want – they want to understand how their portfolios are contributing to nature-positive outcomes and the net-zero transitions, but without all this stuff in place it doesn’t work effectively.”

Brand said the ISFC would help to try and bed down standardized carbon accounting for both forestry and land use, as well as examining metrics for biodiversity metrics.

“Forestry, agriculture, conservation finance – they were all in their own siloes before but that is starting to break down, and you’re starting to get a more integrated landscape investment concept now that can not only deliver food and fiber and timber, but also things like climate mitigation, biodiversity benefits, conservation benefits, fresh water and sustainable communities. That drives you into a system that not only has asset values in terms of income and profit and loss, but what is my biodiversity position, my carbon stock change or my water yield?” Brand said.

“We often now see policy processes that don’t have a voice from the forestry sector at the table, so you end with different groups – NGOs, governments, technical organizations – wrangling over rules without the people who have to implement them actually at the table. That’s really what we’re trying to bring to it.”

The ISFC has been launched with a memorandum of understanding between its 10 founding organizations, with more likely to join over the coming months. A more formal constitution for the grouping would likely be drawn up in due course as it grows, Brand said.

Hampton said in a statement: “ISFC’s mission is to advocate for increasing the global provision of renewable materials in the context of a circular bioeconomy; supporting growth that is compatible with climate and nature recovery imperatives; embedding science-based principles in policy and incentives; and increasing benefits to rural and indigenous communities.

“The ISFC is committed to help solve the challenges laid out in the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use, being progressed by the Forests and Climate Leaders Partnership. The private forestry sector is a vital partner to mobilize capital at the scale required to deliver on these ambitions and the applicable United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

Views of the ISFC’s founding members:

Mark McHugh, president, Rayonier: “Sustainably managed working forests will play a vital role in supporting the transition to a circular bioeconomy. At Rayonier, we are committed to realizing the full potential of our forests in meeting the needs of society, and we are pleased to join the ISFC with a view towards achieving this vision.”

Jody Strickland, chief business officer, EVP, F&W Forestry Services: “Forests are extremely important for providing both ecological services and sustainable, renewable products for a growing population. We believe the sustainable building materials and other cellulose-based products produced from the trees we grow will play an increasingly important role in helping us transition to a more sustainable economy.

“At the same time, we need to continue to improve the way we manage forests to provide additional ecological benefits. Therefore, it is vitally important that the forestry sector comes together to help meet the challenges of transitioning to a sustainable society. The ISFC provides a conduit for us to work together to meet the challenges that lie ahead.”

Olly Hughes, managing director, forestry, Gresham House: “The consideration of long-term sustainability risks and opportunities is a crucial aspect of our forestry management approach. Sustainability-related risks include climate change and biodiversity loss. We believe that managing forests sustainably can help mitigate these long-term risks and maximize the long-term growth and health of these assets for the ultimate benefit of society as a whole.

“We are delighted to have joined the ISFC to ensure that the opportunities for forestry to support global climate and biodiversity challenges are fully understood and make a full contribution towards a more sustainable future.”

Masaru Namiki, general manager, Living and Environmental Business Division, Mitsui Bussan: “At Mitsui we are committed to driving initiatives that will make contributions to solving the material issues our world is facing today, of which one is to ‘Create an Eco-Friendly Society.’ While there is no doubt that forestry will play a key role in promoting sustainable growth of our society, realizing its potential has only begun. It is our privilege to join the ISFC and to work together with global leaders in unlocking the true values and benefits forestry can bring.”

Tsuyoshi Teragaki, managing executive officer, COO, Forest Products Division, Marubeni: “We are aspiring to become a ‘Forerunner in Green Business’ by addressing sustainability issues across all industries, and implementing sustainability initiatives – including decarbonization, the circular economy, water resources, biodiversity, respect for human rights and sustainable supply chains – is a prerequisite we have set for the Marubeni Group’s business operations.

“We recognize that forests are renewable resources that provide various benefits for sustaining life on earth and embrace economically viable forest management methods with the aim of ensuring the prosperity of present and future generations. We strive to contribute to the establishment of a circular economy by creating innovation in the utilization of forest resources and responding to the society’s environmental needs that are becoming more diverse. By joining ISFC, we are honored to be able to contribute to the realization of a sustainable future together with forestry companies that share the same vision.”

Sauli Brander, VP global affairs, UPM: “Sustainable forest management, sustainable use of forest raw material, and the switch from fossil resources to sustainable renewable materials constitutes an enormous opportunity to combat climate change. We cannot achieve our common climate goals without recognizing the contribution of forests. UPM’s business is based on the continuous growth of forests and increasing a net-positive impact on biodiversity. Our Forest Action Plan 2030 covers all fundamental aspects of sustainable forestry: climate, biodiversity, soil, water and social contribution.

“UPM’s significant forestry footprint that covers Finland, Uruguay and the US enables us to be at the forefront of responsible wood sourcing, and to introduce new locally adapted solutions and best practices in forestry. We welcome international co-operation to support the whole sector in finding best solutions, together.”

Olli Haltia, chief executive officer, Dasos Capital: “Sustainably managed forests are a source for a wide range of products and services. In addition to wood, the global demand for forest-based biodiversity and carbon sequestration is rapidly growing. It is increasingly recognized that markets and market-based pricing for all forest-based ecosystem services should be developed symmetrically across the product portfolio.

“Forests form an important part of natural capital. To match the environmental, economic and social challenges of a global economy, we need an internationally co-ordinated and coherently adapted natural capital framework and standards to ensure dynamic and sustainable investment in global forest resources. We have been very pleased to join the ISFC to enhance the development of forest-based natural capital and investment for evergreen future.”

Toby Croucher, senior vice-president, climate nature forestry, Stora Enso: “At Stora Enso we are fully focused on sustainability as central to the way we work locally and nationally with all our partners and stakeholders. However, it is imperative that the contribution of the forestry industry to societal and environmental goals and needs is supported and understood globally in the context of energy and material system transitions, and we are pleased to join the ISFC to support this critical dialogue.”

Hiroyuki Isono, group chief executive officer, Oji Holdings Corporation: “Sustainably managed forests not only absorb and fix carbon dioxide, but also mitigate floods, cultivate water sources and prevent natural disaster in addition to their contribution to biodiversity, healing and health enhancement of people. The products derived from wood are made of renewable materials and able to substitute for plastic, films and fuel derived from fossil resources.

“We are delighted to join the ISFC where world forestry leaders work together as one to combat global problems such as climate change, biodiversity loss and forest decrease. The coalition will also attempt to clarify real value of forests as natural capital, which will lead to a sustainable society.”