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American Forests & corporate responsibility.

Corporations and environmental groups have shared a love/hate relationship for decades. At AMERICAN FORESTS we have a different perspective on business. When the organization first got off the ground in the 19th century, founders invited representatives of various industries to serve on the board of directors. It still raises eye-brows in some sectors when we acknowledge, for instance, the involvement of the forest and railroad industries in AMERICAN FORESTS' history.

The idea is simple, and it's one we hold dear: Forest conservation cannot move forward without representatives of the industries that use those resources sitting at the table. This is a tenet we still adhere to and one that largely sets AMERICAN FORESTS apart from other environmental groups.

Over the nearly 130 years of our existence, AMERICAN FORESTS' forest conservation advocacy has benefited from the concerns and involvement of other industries too. Our board members have included George Wall Merck, Henry Ford, Anson Goodyear, Samuel Gompers, and Maurice Goddard.

Honorary vice presidents have included Walt Disney, Laurence Rockefeller, Edsel Ford, and Mrs. Henry Ford, along with Lady Bird Johnson, Aldo Leopold, Lowell Thomas, and Frederick Law Olmsted. Our members have included such well-known names as P.S. du Pont, George Eastman, Thomas A. Edison, John Pierpont Morgan, Richard B. Mellon, and Marshall Field 3rd.

Fast forward to the present. When we launched the action and education campaign Global ReLeaf in 1988, we recognized that businesses and corporations have a role in environmental improvement--just like individuals, community groups, governments, and nonprofit organizations.

Corporations have money, it's true, and AMERICAN FORESTS promises our corporate supporters we will use their money to improve forests in an environmentally proper way. But business is much more than just deep pockets. We ask three things from each of our corporate sponsors.

First, of course, we ask for financial support, which underwrites tree planting for forest restoration or supports our longstanding role to interpret science and research for public policy use. Second, corporations represent people--employees, clients, customers, suppliers--and we ask that they put this "people power" to use by planting trees, spreading the word about the need for improved forest conservation, and urging people to join AMERICAN FORESTS as supporting members or donors.

And third, we ask that our corporate sponsors tell customers about their partnership with AMERICAN FORESTS. As a member-supported nonprofit, AMERICAN FORESTS ultimately needs to reach individuals with our mission and vision of healthy forest ecosystems for every community.

Who are our sponsors? Today, AMERICAN FORESTS is proud to be associated with more than 120 large and small companies whose commitment to excellence is clear not just through the products they sell but by their investment in their communities and the environment.

ComputersharePepper, one of our newest partners, is promoting paperless communications with shareholders of publicly held corporations. By helping their clients in going paperless, ComputersharePepper is reducing the amount of paper going to landfills. A car sharing company, FlexCar, has set a goal of being carbon-neutral. To do that it is planting trees to offset all the carbon produced by FlexCar's fleet of rental cars.


Interface, Inc., an industrial carpet manufacturer, seeks to be the first company that, by its deeds, shows the industrial world the definition of sustainability in all its dimensions: people, process, product, place and profits. Interface has set a goal of doing this by 2020, and has joined with AMERICAN FORESTS to plant trees to offset carbon emissions associated with the company's corporate travel. International packaging company TetraPak, likewise, has joined with AMERICAN FORESTS to plant trees to offset carbon.

We firmly believe that no sector--government, business, or nonprofit--should be excluded from participating in environmental improvement. No one sector can accomplish environmental restoration on its own. In fact, it is the responsibility of every one of us in every sector to do our part to grow a healthier world. As our corporate sponsors have shown, investing in the environment is not only the right thing to do, it is simply good business.
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Author:Olson, Jeff
Publication:American Forests
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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