Ara Erickson, sustainability manager with timber REIT Weyerhaeuser (NYSE: WY), joined REIT.com for a video interview at NAREIT’s 2014 Leader in the Light Working Forum in San Francisco.
Erickson discussed some of the differences in managing a sustainability program for a timber REIT relative to companies in the other major property sectors.
“As a timber REIT, we first and foremost grow trees, so our sustainability practices start with breeding, caring for and planting those trees as young trees to make sure that we can recognize their value when we harvest them,” she said. “It’s very different than managing an office building or a shopping mall or a residential place. Our sustainability practices start with the very beginning of the tree, and then we have to harvest them. We have to ensure that both our on-the-ground practices of actual harvesting are sustainable and also how frequently we harvest, where we harvest and how we do it. Sustainability is really embedded in everything we do from the tree growing. Even in the timber REIT world, we’re also a little different. In addition to being one of the largest private-forest site owners, we manufacture wood.”
Erickson noted that her company’s sustainability program includes more than just green environmental practices.
“Just like any company—REITs or non-REITs—we have to focus on sustainability beyond just the environmental side,” she said. “We’ve integrated sustainability into our people development. We need to make sure that we attract people, we need to make sure that we’re governed well as a company, we have good financial results for our investors. What kind of impact are we having on our community?”
Erickson was asked about the biggest challenges faced on a daily basis.
“I think most people, especially in this arena, struggle with how we take sustainability and make it not just about the environmental aspect,” she said. “Environment is part of sustainability, but sustainability, as we know, is much larger. How do we continue to make sure that when we talk about sustainability, people understand that we’re talking about how we’re governed, how we interact with our stakeholders and the environmental impact?”