We help our rural communities be thriving places to work and live
What is the challenge?
Most of our employees live in rural communities across North America where we operate mills, distribution centers and other offices. These small towns are often built around a history of forestry and manufacturing, and a culture of outdoor activities that are closely tied to forests and wildlife.
For many people, the appeal of rural living is powerful. These places often offer less crime, a lower cost of living, less traffic and strong community connections. Society at large also benefits from thriving rural areas because they are crucial sources of water, food, energy and recreation for all people, no matter where they live.
In some rural areas, however, the barriers to economic and social prosperity can be difficult to overcome, particularly in communities that lack access to good job opportunities and are experiencing population declines and other demographic shifts. According to recent reports, the lasting negative effects of the Great Recession have disproportionately affected rural areas. A declining population in these areas is both the cause and effect of limited employment opportunities. Education, technology and infrastructure are often underfunded, especially for communities of color and other marginalized communities, and rural communities often experience limited access to critical services such as healthcare and higher education.
What is our role?
As a company with operations in many rural areas, we already play a significant role in providing family-wage jobs with opportunity for growth, a stable tax base, recreational access to our land and philanthropic support to local organizations. Our employees are also extremely active volunteers for causes they care about, and many are engaged in civic leadership and are part of the fabric of these communities.
At the same time, we are acutely aware of the challenges these communities face, and we are motivated to help ensure they remain great places to live, work and do business.
We believe permanent and successful solutions will require a combination of national attention, resources and leadership, combined with grassroots organization and engagement. Nobody is better equipped to chart a future for a community than the people living and working there every day, and we intend to leverage our resources and experience to participate in initiatives that support their priorities.
What do we want to achieve by 2030?
By 2030, we envision measurable improvements in how we, and those we partner with, approach rural community investment and engagement; how we create resilient, diverse talent pools for rural workforce development opportunities; and how we encourage civic engagement that fosters support for the natural resources that are critical to quality of life for everyone.
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:
Directing our time, talent and money toward causes that help our rural operating communities
While we already do a good job of investing in our communities, we know there is room to improve. We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to funnel our resources to the highest-priority issues in the areas where we operate.
Leveraging our scale, voice, influence and resources by partnering with organizations that focus on rural issues
By partnering with other companies, organizations and community leaders, we can amplify the needs of rural communities and ensure the right resources are directed toward the highest-impact improvement initiatives.
As we explore and implement solutions for rural communities, 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.
Evaluate our rural community landscape to determine strengths and opportunities
In 2021 we launched a project to analyze key indicator data for specific communities where we operate, solicit direct input from key community leaders and employees, and benchmark industry peers and non-industry leaders to understand best practices and successful strategies focused on rural communities. This evaluation will inform our local giving strategies and reveal potential signature focus areas.
Explore potential partnerships that can help us accelerate progress in priority areas
In 2021 we will also identify a range of potential partnership opportunities with nonprofit organizations, national and state associations, and/or other companies with whom we can work on common challenges, shared priorities and similar interests.
Provide emergency relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, hurricanes and unprecedented wildfires
In response to the pandemic, we set aside dollars in our Giving Fund to allocate for COVID-19 response, and our advisory committees used these funds to issue 53 grants to emergency services in our local communities. In addition, we held a companywide giving campaign to support community food banks and raised a total of $375,000 in employee pledges, plus the company match.
We also experienced several natural disasters in our rural communities in 2020. In response to hurricanes in the South and wildfires in the West, we donated a total of $460,000 to support emergency relief and recovery organizations that were mobilized to serve the hardest-hit communities.
Expand our partnership with Jobs for America’s Graduates
JAG helps high school students in under-resourced communities build skills so they are better prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation. In 2020 we supported the launch of a JAG program in Broken Bow, Oklahoma; this is in addition to JAG programs in Louisiana and Mississippi that we have been supporting since 2019.
Equip our internal Giving Fund Advisory Committees to be as effective as possible
In 2021 we conducted a series of educational sessions with our regional employee-led Giving Fund Advisory Committees to refresh them on our philanthropic strategy and ensure they have the tools and resources they need to effectively make local giving decisions.