American Forests & Corporate Responsibility

Article excerpt

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. …