Our working forests contribute to climate change solutions
What is the Challenge?
Climate change has the potential to cause enormous disruptions in our world, affecting everything from how we do business to our own well-being and the health of ecosystems around the planet. Despite a short-term decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the concentration of CO2 remains at record levels, and 2020 was the second-hottest year on record. As global temperatures climb, changes in surface temperature and precipitation trends are leading to the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, wildfires and a loss of biodiversity. Sea level rise, rising ocean temperatures and changes to standard growing conditions present challenges to our coastal communities and forests around the world. Risks to society, including threats to food security, water supply and economic growth, are also increasingly likely and severe.
To avoid the worst projected impacts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stressed the need to limit global warming to no more than 1.5°C — and all pathways to limit warming rely on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
What is our role?
Climate change will almost certainly result in the disruption of normal business patterns, and it is essential for us to address the unique risks it poses for our people, our operations and the communities where we live and work. We have a role to play both in decreasing our CO2 emissions and also in removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
Fortunately, one of the largest opportunities to remove CO2 already exists: forests. As they grow, trees naturally sequester CO2 and store it as solid carbon, making working forests a powerful, far-reaching and cost-effective tool to help limit the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. And as the steward of millions of acres of forests in the United States and Canada, and one of the largest producers of wood products in the world, we believe we are uniquely positioned to be part of the solution to this global challenge.
We recognize our added responsibility to manage our forests well in the face of climate change to ensure they stay healthy and productive and continue to act as a natural climate solution. We also know that climate change is projected to more severely affect communities that are already vulnerable, and Weyerhaeuser is committed to leveraging our sustainable working forests to deliver equitable, climate-smart solutions that benefit everyone.
What do we want to achieve by 2030?
By 2030, we envision a world where the value of working forests and the products that come from them is fully recognized as one of the key solutions for slowing and reducing the impacts of climate change. Through our research, stewardship and industry leadership, we will be a model for how working forests can and should be part of a sustainable, biodiverse and climate-resilient solution — today and long into the future.
Where we are focused
While there is much we can do between now and 2030, we are structuring our long-term goals into three-year segments to effectively prioritize and accelerate progress. During these first three years, we are focusing our work in two key areas:
Improving the understanding of working forests as a climate solution
For working forests to effectively contribute to climate change mitigation, we need broader public awareness and understanding of their unique benefits as a mechanism for both carbon sequestration and carbon storage.
Ensuring working forests are climate-resilient
Forests are complex ecosystems, and the potential impacts of climate change on forest health and productivity are constantly evolving. Additionally, understanding and incorporating climate-related risks and opportunities into our business decisions will be vital in ensuring working forests can continue to act as a climate solution — and be enjoyed by humans for generations to come.
As we explore and implement solutions for climate change, we will develop and report progress and measurable-success metrics for each of our focus areas.
While we are still early in our work to achieve our 3 by 30 sustainability ambitions, we are laying the groundwork for meaningful progress toward our goals. The key objectives and accomplishments below are foundational to our success and will be updated throughout our journey.
Participate in the development of carbon-accounting and target-setting standards for our sector
We are an active member of the technical working groups and drafting process for new guidance addressing how companies account for and report on carbon removals and land use as part of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. This guidance will ensure consistency in accounting for carbon-removal technologies, including forests and wood products. In addition to leveraging our technical time and expertise, we provided a grant to the World Resources Institute in direct support of the effort. Alongside other member companies in the WBCSD Forest Solutions Group, we are preparing to pilot the guidance this year. In the meantime, we released our inaugural Carbon Record, which reflects our expectation of where that guidance will land, and we will adjust as needed as soon as it is finalized.
Implement carbon-accounting and target-setting practices for our company — and share our results with others
In 2021, we expanded our greenhouse gas inventory to include relevant Scope 3 emissions, which include all indirect emissions that occur from both upstream activities (our suppliers) and downstream activities (our customers and end users). We now include five significant categories of Scope 3 emissions in our inventory and share our assumptions and calculations in our Carbon Record methodology. Our Scope 3 emissions for 2020 were 6.1 million metric tons of CO2e.
In 2021, we calculated and disclosed the net change in carbon stored in our U.S. Timberlands. These forests removed a net of 10 million metric tons of CO2e from the atmosphere between 2019 and 2020. We follow four guiding principles to report the carbon impact of our forests. First, we report the net change of carbon stored in our forests. Net change incorporates sequestration and growth, harvest, and mortality and is a direct reflection of how our forests impact the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Second, we derive our values from the same primary data used to calculate our publicly reported timber inventory, as opposed to generic modeling based on the age class and species of our forests. Third, we apply a consistent spatial footprint to ensure we are comparing equivalent acreages when calculating net change, allowing us to accurately and appropriately account for the effect of acquisitions and divestitures. Fourth, we only report removals of carbon for which we have high-quality data, such as standing trees, as opposed to including data points that rely on rough estimation or are too difficult to measure, such as down wood or understory vegetation.
In 2020, we committed to setting a science-based target in line with the latest climate science. In 2021, we set a target to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 42 percent by 2030 from a 2020 base year, and to reduce Scope 3 GHG emissions by 25 percent per metric ton of production by 2030 from a 2020 base year. This target has been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative as in line with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is the highest level of ambition recognized by SBTi. We are honored to join a select group of climate leaders who are on a path to net-zero emissions, and you can explore our Carbon Record for details about our strategy for achieving these ambitious targets.
As one of the world’s largest timberlands owners and one of North America’s largest wood products manufacturers, we are a great test case for including carbon removals alongside carbon emissions in our greenhouse gas inventory. In 2021, we took a major step forward by publishing our inaugural Carbon Record, which provides a consolidated look at our carbon impact, from our emission to our removals, across our entire value chain. With the publication of our Carbon Record, we can confidently and proudly declare that our net impact is significantly carbon negative, meaning we remove more carbon from the atmosphere than we emit each year. We don’t believe there is another industry that can make this claim. And given our scale, we believe there is no other company that provides a better true “carbon negative” solution than Weyerhaeuser.
Lead our industry in positioning forests and wood products as natural climate solutions
With our support, the American Wood Council partnered with the Carbon Leadership Forum in 2020 to host the Wood Carbon Seminars, an eight-part webinar series featuring wood products and forestry experts who answered questions from the building industry about the carbon and climate impacts of wood.
To inform the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator’s representation of variability within the industrywide environmental product declarations for various wood products, in 2021 we awarded a grant to the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials to analyze the energy use and associated variability of greenhouse gas emissions among the softwood lumber life-cycle assessments. This calculator is one of the prominent tools being used to evaluate a building product’s environmental impact.
Over the past two years, as part of the creation of the North American Environmental Product Declarations, we developed and implemented an action plan with the American Wood Council to improve the quality and quantity of data collected from manufacturing companies. This project will dramatically increase participation from manufacturing facilities and streamline the life cycle-assessment creation process with an online data portal.
Support policies that avoid and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon storage through natural climate solutions
We are one of the original members of the Forest-Climate Working Group, the United States’ largest forest sector coalition working to advance climate change policy solutions and cross-sector learning opportunities. For the past two years, we have provided funding to support critical behind-the-scenes staffing and a communications strategy and platform. In 2020 we endorsed the policy platform that outlines how policymakers can help private forest owners and public land managers grow the powerful climate solutions in America’s forests and forest products while delivering other environmental and economic benefits. Today, we continue to be engaged in additional policy recommendations and learning opportunities through the FCWG.
In 2021 we were one of the founding members of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Net Zero Business Alliance, a group of leading companies from key sectors devoted to working with industry and policymakers to pursue net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Net Zero Business Alliance believes that decarbonization is “necessary, urgent, and profoundly challenging.” We also joined the BPC’s Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Task Force to help shape policy recommendations that enhance the role of agriculture and forestry as valuable natural climate solutions and provide new revenue streams to farmers, ranchers and foresters.
Identify and assess the impact of climate-related risks and opportunities to our company and share our results
In 2018 a team of internal experts identified key climate-related risks and opportunities to our business. In 2020 we incorporated these impacts into our TCFD alignment document. Climate-related impacts are reviewed annually across our business lines as a part of our overall risk management process.
We are an active member of the Climate Smart Land Network, a collaborative network of forest landowners and managers who are on the front line of adapting North American forests to climate change. In 2020 we signed on as a collaborator on a joint research project between Manomet and The Nature Conservancy focused on identifying and implementing measures that increase carbon sequestration and storage on commercial forestland.
Integrate climate-related risks and opportunities into our business decisions
In 2020 we launched a new business in support of emerging natural-climate-solution opportunities and other carbon-related products that enhance our portfolio.
We are currently developing a comprehensive science strategy that integrates and expands on research and understanding of how climate change interacts with sustainable forest management and influences biodiversity, water quality and quantity, forest health, harvest planning, genetics and silviculture. With this strategic climate science plan, we will further integrate climate-related risks into our forest management decisions.