2019 Sustainability Report
Committed to using financial, natural and human resources wisely without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs
Understanding and protecting the habitats where we work.
We practice sustainable forestry across our operations in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi and offer services to improve land management practices across industries.
Since December 2008, Soterra, LLC, our subsidiary engaged in Land Management, has adhered to the principles of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and followed Best Management Practices defined by each state for its managed timberlands. Soterra forests provide timberland habitat for wildlife, forestry management services and serve as a space for recreational land use. Soterra operates in the Southeastern United States, managing 244,600 acres of timberland in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. In 2019, Soterra forests sequestered over 1,707,000 tons of CO2.
Soterra’s harvesting, and overall forestry practices, are guided by SFI and state-specific Best Management Practices to ensure we adhere to all regulatory requirements and apply the highest standard practices throughout our operations whenever possible. We apply a sustainable harvest methodology, which is based on a 30-year rotation, to our timberlands. Prior to harvesting any site, we conduct a thorough review of the area to assess the overall biodiversity value of the site and identify any protected animal or plant species that may be impacted by the harvest. If any areas within a site are identified as having a high biodiversity value or serve as a habitat to a protected species, appropriate buffer zones are established to ensure that land or species is not impacted and, if necessary, preparation and harvesting methods will be altered accordingly. To-date, no Soterra managed lands have been identified as having high biodiversity value, however since 2008, eight species of concern have been identified within our geographic areas and protected when necessary.
Historically, Soterra’s revenue has primarily been from the harvest and sale of timber from our timberlands. While still a core part of our business, in recent years we have made a conscious shift to invest resources in our consulting and recreational lease services. In addition to diversifying our revenue, expanding these services ensures we will be able to continue harvesting our timber in a sustainable manner and only harvest mature timber.
The growth of our consulting services also allows us to expand our impact beyond our own land. Since 2016, we have regenerated more land and planted more trees on privately owned land than we have on our own acreage – over 18,000 total acres planted on private land. Through our consulting engagements, we work with land owners to implement the same responsible land management practices, and leverage the same technology, that we do for our own managed acreage. We partner with land owner associations, such as the Alabama Forest Owners Association, Forest/Lamar Forest Owners Association, and St. Helena Forestry Association, to host field days where land owners can learn about best practices to implement on their own land. We are also working to diversify through forest byproducts. In 2015, we began collecting and repurposing pine straw – the fallen needles from evergreen trees – as landscape cover that can be used by home gardeners.
In 2020, we will continue to diversify our services to maintain our ability to run our business with sustainable practices. We will continue to grow our consulting services and identify new byproducts that can be sold without impacting the health of the land. We will improve our land management practices by setting new standards for herbicide and fertilizer application and diversifying the type and quality of seedlings that we plant, providing many benefits to our land including healthier trees, higher harvest yields and more sustainable harvest volume, which will also provide greater carbon capture, in the future. We will place an increased focus on forest density, further ensuring that we protect that land and its biodiversity as we harvest in the future.
Pollinator Habitat Improvement Study
The year 2013 marked the conclusion of a multi-year pollinator research project that occurred on Greif/Soterra LLC timberlands in south Mississippi. The study was conducted in conjunction with the Pollinator Partnership and NAPCC—the world's foremost experts on pollination issues—to learn how pollinators impact wildlife food availability on timber landscapes, the added value of hosting honey bees and beekeepers on the landscape and to discover the best management practice for ecosystem services on forest landscapes.
The study produced some interesting recommendations for sustainable timberland management practices that should benefit timberland owners, pollinator species, local wildlife and ecosystems alike. Greif is committed to its sustainable land use platform, and will help distribute any resulting publications to industry partners, regulators and members of the academic community globally to influence positive environmental management in timberland systems.
In 2013, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) recognized Soterra LLC and the Pollinator Partnership with its coveted Conservation Leadership Award for this research. The state of Louisiana also recognized the efforts on the program by declaring a state-wide Pollinator Week in the spring of 2018. As of 2019, Soterra LLC continues its support for education, outreach, conservation and scientific research relating to the importance of pollinators in our ecosystem by maintaining its involvement in the Pollinator Partnership as an active Board of Directors member. To learn more, please see our article in Bee Culture Magazine.