Carbon Project Unlocks Value of Southeastern U.S. Forests

by | 1.21.2014 at 12:00pm | 1 Comment
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A new carbon offsetting program, called Carbon Canopy, was designed to encourage sustainable development of the nation’s forests. Photo: Flickr.

Domtar, a leading company in the manufacturing and marketing of sustainable paper products, recently teamed up with the Dogwood Alliance and major office supply corporation Staples to create a first-of-its-kind exchange between forest landowners and corporate partners. The program, called Carbon Canopy, was designed to encourage sustainable development of the nation’s forests.

Paige Goff, the Vice President of Sustainability and Business Communications at Domtar, discusses the recent development of the Carbon Canopy project and its future impacts.


1. What was the impetus behind the Carbon Canopy project, and how did it get off the ground?

The Carbon Canopy project was initiated in early 2007, when the Dogwood Alliance and Staples, Inc. convened a diverse set of stakeholders to discuss the emerging carbon market’s potential for expanding forest conservation and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification on private lands in the southern U.S.  The pilot project focuses on improved forest management practices that expand protection for biodiversity and water quality while increasing carbon stocks.  The initial project will meet the rigorous carbon accounting standards of the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VSC), the Climate Action Reserve (CAR), and FSC, which will certify the program’s management practices.

Domtar developed the Carbon Canopy project along with conservation groups and other forest products companies to determine how forest landowners in the southern U.S. can benefit from investments in the emerging forest carbon marketplace.  We believe investments in forest conservation and restoration, in accordance with FSC requirements, offer a really interesting motivator for landowners and stakeholders to support sustainable forestry practices.

This work has culminated in the first sales of carbon offsets by forest landowners in two Southern states. Witnessing the launch of the first carbon-offset program in U.S. has been hugely rewarding.  This is a groundbreaking approach to greening the forest products supply chain.

Along with Staples and other partners, Domtar is proud to support the Dogwood Alliance in this innovative approach to expanded FSC forest management certification and enhanced return to landowners.

2. Will impacts from this project be measurable? How so? When do you expect to see outcomes?

Yes – Carbon Canopy is designed to deliver specific outcomes. Landowners will receive revenue for their carbon, but also agree to follow FSC sustainable forestry practices. Additionally, forest product companies agree to purchase sustainably-harvested timber from Carbon Canopy landowners.  Corporate partners will then purchase the related carbon assets, which reduce their energy footprints and support a marketplace that promotes forest conservation. The first two contracts involve the owners of 14,000 acres of FSC-certified forest in Western North Carolina and Southwestern Virginia, and will create more than 100,000 metric tons of carbon offsets in their first year.

3. How long did it take for the exchange to come about – from conceptualization to launch?

In an industry first, Domtar achieved Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain-of-Custody certification at four paper mills in 2007.  In 2010, the first major office paper was produced from FSC-certified fiber from southern U.S. forests.  Over time, Domtar and companies such as Staples have dramatically increased the availability of FSC-certified and post-consumer recycled fiber paper in the U.S. marketplace; some of this increased availability is partially due to the work with the Dogwood Alliance in southeastern U.S. forests.

These important steps helped expand the amount of FSC-certified forestland in the U.S. South and has resulted in increased protection of endangered forests, limits on clear-cutting, protection against the conversion of natural forests to plantations and better forest management overall.

Building on this success, the Carbon Canopy further advances efforts to protect and restore forests by bringing together some the largest purchasers of paper and other wood products from the region’s forests.

Our commitment, along with that of our partners, to Forest Stewardship Council certification has paved the way to November’s successful implementation of a carbon-offset program. It all starts with sustainably managing forests and the rest grows from there.

4. What do you see as unique to Domtar that enabled this program to be successfully executed?

Our commitment to sustainability is core to who we are as a company. Domtar leads the pulp, paper and wood products industry in sustainability through environmental stewardship, stakeholder collaboration, community investment and engagement and innovations that help recover and conserve natural resources. We take pride in leading the industry from an operational and product offering standpoint.

One of Domtar’s key differentiators is found in the way we engage with various stakeholder groups, specifically environmental NGOs, to continuously innovate and improve our sustainable business practices.  This project is a prime example of bringing business and environmental stewardship leaders together to create solutions that benefit all.

The Carbon Canopy’s initial project is focused on determining how forest landowners might benefit financially from expanding forest conservation and the broader goal is the creation of a credible carbon market model for private landowners. By investing in credible forest conservation, management and restoration, the Carbon Canopy intends to not only reduce carbon emissions, but to ensure a healthy forest legacy for future generations and provide a helping hand to the millions of families and individuals who sustainably manage forestland in US.

5. Do you anticipate this type of exchange being applied to other industries?

While we can’t predict future endeavors of other industries, we can say that it is our hope that programs such as the Carbon Canopy will serve as inspiration for other industries and companies. There is true economic value in embedding sustainability at the core of business operations. Any industry would benefit from working with NGOs and other stakeholder groups to implement innovative solutions, partnership initiatives and business approaches like we have with Carbon Canopy. Climate change is real, and helping monetize the natural carbon absorbing ability of forests is a step in the right direction as we work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and confront climate change.

6. Since making this announcement, what type of reactions have you gotten from stakeholders? 

I can offer a few examples.  Mark F. Buckley, Vice President of Environmental Affairs at Staples Inc., said of his company, “Staples is proud to be a founding member of the Carbon Canopy. In addition to building green facilities, fleets and the purchase of renewable energy, credible, high-quality forest carbon offsets offer additional opportunities for companies like Staples to reduce the impacts to climate change of their operations and supply chains. The ability to conserve forests while also creating future FSC-certified wood supply for products that we depend upon is a win for Staples, a win for our customers and a win for the planet.”

Jim Sitts, Appalachian Timber Manager for Columbia Forest Products, a solid wood products company, said the project “is a running start towards conserving our nation’s precious resources and reducing carbon emissions.”

7. How does this program fit into your broader sustainability goals and strategy?

Early on, Domtar’s early interest in sustainability focused on the fiber supply-chain. Working with NGOs and customers to ensure we were doing all we could to ensure the most environmentally responsible operations, that focus has broadened. Domtar has worked with the FSC to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests and, with EarthChoice, has brought to market the industry’s first FSC line of paper. As a recognized industry leader, all 13 of Domtar’s pulp and paper mills have FSC certification and Domtar has established the goal of having 100 percent of its fiber supply certified to FSC standards.

Today, we have gone beyond focusing solely on our fiber supply chain – our vision is to continue to evolve into a global leader in the innovation of fiber-based products. I am also proud to say that we have set aggressive targets for continued reductions in greenhouse gas, water and waste. Additionally, we know we have a lot to learn from others in this space, and have made collaboration with environmental NGOs such as FSC, the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the Rainforest Alliance and others a top priority. And of course, we will work closely with customers to develop products to meet their individual sustainability goals.

At Domtar we don’t see sustainability as an end goal, but a journey we know we constantly need to improve and innovate upon. By working with leading NGOs and partners on projects like Carbon Canopy, we will continue to build upon our history and reputation as a responsible business.

Paige Goff is the Vice President, Sustainability and Business Communications at Domtar, a company that designs, manufactures, markets and distributes a wide variety of fiber-based products including communication papers, specialty and packaging papers and hygiene products. In this role, she is responsible for communicating the sustainability initiatives that span Domtar’s pulp and paper product lines. In addition, she is charged with applying current trends and strategies related to environmental, regulatory and social sustainability to Domtar’s business practices and products, while managing the relationships among environmental non-governmental organizations and customers. She has 14 years experience in the paper industry and joined Domtar in 2004. She has a Masters of Business Administration degree.

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One Response to “Carbon Project Unlocks Value of Southeastern U.S. Forests”

  1. CGV says:

    “There is true economic value in embedding sustainability at the core of business operations.” Paige Goff is completely right when he says that. Keep up the good work, guys!