THE EARTH TIMES
APRIL 22, 1993
Georgia -Pacific wins corporate award
Earth Pledge Foundation cites innovative company
BY ASHALI VARMA
Georgia-Pacific, one of the world’s largest forest product companies, which last week entered into an unusual conservation agreement with the Clinton Administration, has been awarded the First Sustainable Development Award by the Earth Pledge Foundation.
Announcing the award last week, Theodore W Kheel, the foundation’s chairman, said that the award consists of an original signed, limited-edition print by Robert Rauschenberg, the internationally acclaimed artist, Kheel said, adding that the print had become a valuable collector’s item.
“We were particularly impressed with the advertisement reporting that Georgia -Pacific was replanting 50 million trees a year and offering a seedling to anyone who wrote to your company, “Kheel said in a letter to A.D. “Pete” Correll, president and chief operating officer of Georgia-Pacific. “We were also impressed with the agreement Georgia-Pacific entered into with the Clinton Administration for the protection of red-cockaded woodpeckers on your company’s forest lands in Arkansas, the Carolinas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Georgia-Pacific’s Correll, responding to Kheel’s letter about the Sustainable Development Award, said: “Georgia-Pacific is honored to receive the Earth Pledge Foundation Award for Sustainable Development in Industry. You are also to be commended on your publication and what you have achieved in little more than a year. Georgia-Pacific takes its environmental stewardship very seriously. We are responsible, wise stewards of the land, and we operate our facilities in an environmentally sound manner. In fact, Georgia-Pacific has been a successful growth-oriented company because we believe that doing business the right and responsible ways is the reason for our success.”
Georgia-Pacific’s agreement, hailed as first-of-its-kind calls for sound timber management and outlines measure to assure protection of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. It is symbolic of the need to combine sound conservation practices with economic growth, and proves that corporations can achieve this without jeopardizing jobs and profit.
Founded in 1927, Georgia-Pacific is a leading manufacturer of industrial wood products, building materials, pulp, paper and packaging, with operations in 49 states and a workforce of 52,000 people. It owns 6.2 million acres of forestlands in North America and earned its sobriquet, “The Growth Company” by its rapid expansion. At the core of this growth is the tree and as founder Owen Cheatham wrote, “The tree is the central character, the hero, of the Georgia-Pacific story.”
As logging is one of the main interests of the company, it is no wonder that the management saw the wisdom of developing a plan that would avoid lawsuits and government action while also being able to cut timber for a growing market. As Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said, “This proves the point I’ve been making that economics and endangered species don’t have to be mutually exclusive –Georgia-Pacific and the Fish and Wildlife Service are showing that it is possible to comply with the Endangered Species Act and still keep workers on the job.”
The same objectives were reiterated by the president and CEO of Georgia-Pacific, “Pete” Correll, “This agreement confirms that through innovation and leadership, we are balancing the need to provide wood and paper products to consumers with responsible wildlife conservation practices.”
The agreement, which took two years to develop and was co-authored by Dr. Gene Wood a professor of forest wildlife ecology at Clemson University, requires the company to protect 110 colonies of woodpeckers by prohibiting cutting on 10 acres surrounding each colony, or 1,100 acres. It also means that Georgia-pacific would more carefully manage another 510 acres that surround each colony of birds by creating buffer zones to protect the bird’s habitat. The company can log the rest of its 4.2 million acres in the South.
The plan was endorsed by the Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, Ralph Costa who said, “The company’s willingness to commit to this program will help speed up recovery of the species, ….and Georgia-Pacific is the first major landowner to develop a proactive plan to conserve the red-cockaded woodpecker.”
To add to the plan’s merit the company has in the last two years trained more than 400 Georgia-Pacific personnel to recognize the woodpecker’s habitat areas and take action to protect them. The red-cockaded woodpecker is unique among the species in forests of the Southern States because it roosts and nests exclusively in living pine trees.
Perhaps, the most significant aspect of the accord is the timing. The Bush Administration was put on the spot during its most critical phase when conservationists pressured for logging restrictions in the Pacific Northwest to save the northern spotted owl. By signing this agreement the new Administration has sent a clear message to industry that meaningful conservation measures can be integrated with economic use of private industrial land. It has also set a precedent which will encourage the private sector to take such issues more seriously and cooperate with the government to avoid costly lawsuits and adverse publicity.
The Earth Pledge Foundation, which Kheel heads, was founded by him in 1991 to promote the process leading to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Among other activities, the foundation sponsors The Earth Times, a not-for-profit newspaper.