Environmental stewardship is deeply rooted in our company. Every action we take and decision we make considers the long-term view — for our company and for the ecosystems in our care. To ensure our forests remain healthy and productive for generations to come, we are dedicated to protecting and enhancing the many additional benefits they provide, such as clean water, clean air and critical areas for biodiversity.
We are also committed to minimizing the environmental footprint of our wood products manufacturing business, including reducing air emissions, minimizing waste and maximizing wood recovery. These actions are smart for our business, good for the environment and essential to running our operations sustainably.
We are proud of our excellent performance in environmental stewardship. We are also firmly committed to conducting ongoing scientific research and deepening cross-functional partnerships to discover innovative, meaningful ways to continually improve our practices.
We find creative, responsible and beneficial uses for our wood residuals and work to reduce waste generated in our manufacturing process.
PRACTICING SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY
As one of the world's oldest and largest private timberland owners, we've been growing, harvesting and regrowing forests for more than a century. We know forests can be managed sustainably — ensuring a sustainable supply of wood for our customers while protecting the other important benefits forests provide — and we have been proving it is possible for a very long time.
1922: Weyerhaeuser donates 5,000 acres of forest for Washington state reforestation experiments.
1925: We advocate for legislation to encourage reforestation after harvest — an uncommon practice at the time.
1937: We begin research into sustainable-yield forestry, which ensures harvesting does not diminish the forest's ability to provide the timber volume in the future.
1938: We are one of the first companies to successfully grow and plant tree seedlings. From this effort, a new crop was born, and Weyerhaeuser's tree-planting era began.
1941: We establish the first certified tree farm in the United States, located on 120,000 acres of harvested and fire-burned land in Washington state.
1986: We plant our 2 billionth seedling in the blast zone of Mount St. Helens, marking the completion of a massive restoration effort in which we planted 18 million seedlings by hand following the 1980 eruption.
1994: We hold town hall meetings in Washington and Oregon attended by more than 2,000 people, who raised ideas, asked pointed questions and leveled criticism at the company. These public meetings were instrumental to the integration of more extensive environmental applications into our management practices.
2013: We achieve 100 percent certification of our timberlands to third-party sustainable forestry standards.
2020: We launch our 3 by 30 Sustainability Ambitions, which intensify our commitment to make meaningful progress to help solve three big challenges facing the world — the need to provide climate change solutions, provide more sustainable homes, and support thriving rural communities — by 2030.
Today, we continue to certify 100 percent of our forests to the SFI Forest Management Standard. We plant an average of 130 to 150 million seedlings per year in our harvested sites, equivalent to almost four trees per second, and we are transparent about our harvesting and planting metrics.
Restoring Oregon’s Forests
A year after the devastating fires of 2020, our work to replant and restore our forests — including 8.5 million new trees already in the ground — is showing encouraging results.
Our forests are much more than timber: They are thriving, resilient ecosystems that we help steward. All the living things in a forest — from the mightiest trees to the tiniest microbes — interact with each other and with the soil, water and air to form complex ecosystems that support a wide range of plant and animal communities.
The forests we manage host hundreds of native vertebrate species, including large mammals such as deer, elk, cougar, black bear and bobcat, as well as a tremendous diversity of birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, native fish and other aquatic species. Each of these species needs something different from their habitat, including different forest age classes and structures, and other important features such as healthy riparian areas. Since our millions of acres of timberlands contain a range of forest stand ages and structures, along with protected areas around streams and wetlands, these forests support a high level of native biodiversity.
To preserve and protect the ecosystem balance, we regularly conduct biodiversity assessments across our forests. These assessments, which include analyzing species occurrence data and monitoring for the presence of threatened or endangered species, help us design and implement best practices for habitat conservation and species management. These include leaving buffers along riparian areas, surveying sites for species occurrences prior to harvesting and thinning activities, refraining from harvest during certain times and managing for specific habitat using prescribed burns or thinning harvests.
Additionally, since we sustainably manage our forests, we can simultaneously deliver renewable fiber to the market and a myriad of other ecosystem services — such as clean water and recreation opportunities — to surrounding environments and communities.
Private Forest Accord
We helped negotiate a landmark agreement to update forest practices in Oregon, including efforts to protect the state’s iconic salmon population and other sensitive species.
Through a seven-year collaborative research study, we were able to determine that our harvesting practices help protect the Oregon slender salamander, an elusive amphibian that relies on woody debris for its habitat.
Ensuring our forests provide habitat features that help us manage for at-risk, sensitive or threatened and endangered species is a core component of our environmental stewardship. We create and preserve critical habitat through multiple programs, including conservation easements and agreements, mitigation banking, and formal Habitat Conservation Plans and similar arrangements with the U.S. federal government.
As part of our sustainable forest management, conservation easements and other local agreements can enhance the long-term stewardship and protection of wildlife habitat, biodiversity and recreational access. These partnerships are made with a variety of groups and organizations, and they allow us to continue managing our forest resources, which helps protect the economic benefits of our working forests. Habitat Conservation Plans are administered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and provide specific guidance on the protection and enhancement of habitats for threatened and endangered species. We currently participate in HCPs and other conservation agreements in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont and Washington.
Authorized through the U.S. Clean Water Act, mitigation banking allows us to set aside certain areas of our timberlands to preserve, enhance or restore a wetland, stream or other habitat area to compensate for development by another entity in a similar nearby ecosystem. Mitigation banks are regulated and approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a consortium of federal, state and local agencies. We currently operate 17 mitigation banks and projects, primarily in the U.S. South. Several other projects are in various stages of evaluation and development.
Overall, we currently have more than 3.6 million acres invested in these various conservation programs in our Northern, Southern and Western Timberlands, and we are always looking for new opportunities and partnerships to have a beneficial impact on biodiversity and conservation.
Improving Conservation Outcomes
We worked with the Lewis Conservation District to give salmon and steelhead trout access to an additional seven miles of upstream habitat on the West Fork of Washington state's Chehalis River.
The Tortoise Wins in This Race
The gopher tortoise is getting a boost on our land in Mississippi, where we are maintaining 1,260 acres of upland pine habitat to support this threatened species, which digs gopherlike burrows for shelter.
Banking on the Future
Creating the Pontchartrain Basin Umbrella Mitigation Bank, which covers more than 7,000 acres in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, enabled the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out flood prevention work on the Comite River.
Our forests are critical for providing clean water to communities in our watersheds. The trees, plants and soil absorb rain and snowmelt, filter and then slowly release clean water into the many streams, rivers and groundwater systems on our lands. From harvesting to road building, our sustainable forestry practices safeguard water quality by maintaining our forests' ability to capture and filter water — for people, fish and countless other organisms.
Because our forests rely on natural precipitation (rainwater and snow) to grow, our company’s measurable impact on water use is limited to our wood products manufacturing sites and offices, where water is either recycled or treated on-site, evaporated while products are drying or delivered to a local, publicly owned treatment facility. Even with this minor amount of water use at our mills, we continue to stay focused on reducing water use wherever possible.
We offer wetland and stream mitigation solutions to keep the environment in balance.
Sustainably managed forests are a critical part of climate change mitigation. As our millions of acres of forests grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their trunks, limbs and roots, as well as in the soil. After our trees are harvested and made into long-lived wood products, much of their carbon remains stored for the life of those products. After harvest, we plant millions more trees, which immediately begin absorbing more CO2 from the atmosphere, and the next round of wood products store more carbon yet again — all part of an amazing sustainable cycle.
Our managed forests mature quickly and are often able to sequester more carbon than unmanaged forests through faster, continuous rotations, all while maintaining the vast pool of carbon in the forest soil. And using wood for construction requires less energy than other building materials, such as steel and concrete, resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
How We Do It: Forest Carbon
Our forests store between 2.3 billion and 3.6 billion metric tons of CO2. That is the same number of emissions generated by providing every home in the United States with electricity for three to five years.
Building Green with Wood
Wood sourced from well-managed forests is the ultimate renewable, sustainable choice of building material.
Our Carbon Record
Explore the story of our carbon emissions, removals and storage, as well as our ambitious target to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our operations.
We meet more than 70 percent of the energy needs in our manufacturing facilities from renewable biomass, using what would be wood waste from sustainably managed forests and mill residuals to create our own energy. This approach allows us to reduce our reliance on nonrenewable fossil fuels and purchased electricity.
Just like many manufacturing companies, our operations are affected by energy costs. Fortunately, improving energy efficiency helps reduce both costs and greenhouse gas emissions. In 2021, we took two big steps toward improving our energy efficiency. First, we launched an energy strategy led by a team of cross-functional business leaders to focus on becoming a leader in energy independence and sustainable, cost-efficient operations. The team began by benchmarking energy performance across all our manufacturing facilities to identify opportunities for improvement and implement best practices, such as using high-efficiency manufacturing equipment in more sites. Second, we committed to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Plants Program to improve energy efficiency at our manufacturing facilities by 10 percent between 2020 and 2030. This partnership requires us to adopt a companywide goal to improve energy efficiency, annually report our progress to the DOE and develop an energy management plan, with designated energy champions at each of our facilities. We are well on our way to meeting these goals.
We also offer other energy solutions. Our timberlands provide an important land base for renewable energy production, such as wind and solar power. And we supply other mills, companies and utilities with woody biomass used to produce renewable, carbon-neutral energy.
Supporting Wind Energy Development
The Skookumchuck Wind Facility, opened in 2020 and operated by Southern Power, is part of a growing portfolio of renewable energy projects within our Natural Climate Solutions business.
Our sustainably managed forests provide wood fiber and mill residuals that are used as an important source of renewable and carbon-neutral energy.
To keep global temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels, the business community must continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As a company, we continually seek to decrease our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants such as carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds.
Between 2000 and 2020, we reduced our total greenhouse gas emissions by 57 percent. We achieved these reductions primarily by consolidating operations to higher-efficiency mills, replacing fossil fuels with carbon-neutral biomass fuels and reducing fertilizer use in our timberlands. In the past five years, we have made significant improvements, including capital investments at several mills to implement cleaner-burning units, energy optimization and upgrades to emission control systems.
We expect to maintain these gains and further decrease our emissions with the continued installation of new, increasingly efficient equipment and by investing in capital projects that decrease our need for fossil fuels and other greenhouse-gas-emitting sources. In 2021, we set a new science-based greenhouse reduction goal that aligns with the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
For the past five years, we have been converting trucks to run on propane to reduce emissions in our Western Timberlands operations.
Eating Away at Waste Emissions
The bugs in our biofilter system at our medium-density fiberboard facility in Montana are microscopic organisms that clean the air of chemicals released during the manufacturing process.
Air Emissions by the Numbers
We share our air emissions data by emission category and our total greenhouse gas emissions annually in our sustainability data.
Waste is not a word we use often in our business, because we strive to utilize as much of each log as possible and continually seek new outlets for our manufacturing byproducts and used equipment.
On average, 95 percent of each log that enters one of our mills is turned into a useful product. The primary products we produce are solid lumber, wood panels and engineered wood products — our core product lines. Wood shavings, sawdust, chips and bark are sold or delivered to downstream customers who make other useful and essential products. Toilet paper, diapers, paper, cartons, boxes, bags, landscaping mulch and wood pellets are just a few of the countless products made from our wood fiber and forest and mill byproducts.
Still, we are always looking for ways to reduce the amount of overall waste we generate, including finding responsible methods for reuse and recycling. On average, we reuse, recycle or repurpose 99 percent of what could have been waste in our operations — the equivalent of more than 12 billion pounds of material each year that otherwise would have found its way to a landfill.
The manufacturing process for TimberStrand® LSL produces high-performing engineered lumber using small-diameter trees that are not strong or straight enough on their own to be of structural value.
From Aspens to Ashes
Our team in Edson, Alberta, takes the ashes from burning renewable biomass and sends them to regional farmers rather than landfills.
To prove our forest management and wood fiber procurement practices are sustainable, we participate in independent certification programs for forest management, fiber sourcing and chain of custody. Our entire portfolio of timberlands is certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Forest Management Standard — compared with only 11 percent of the world's forests that are certified today.
Internationally recognized forest certification standards — such as SFI, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, the American Tree Farm System and the Forest Stewardship Council — provide customers and stakeholders with an objective, third-party determination of whether companies are implementing sustainable forestry practices and making products that come from legal and well-managed sources. We are vocal supporters of the importance of these standards and the use of independent, third-party audits to verify compliance and promote sustainable forestry around the world.
At Weyerhaeuser, we choose to certify our timberlands and operations to SFI’s standards because they are strong, science-based standards that have effectively pushed forestry in a more sustainable direction. These standards are designed specifically for operations in North America, and we value SFI’s collaborative approach, especially around logger training and the requirement to invest in research and apply it to our operations.
In addition to our forests, we certify all of our manufacturing facilities to the SFI Fiber Sourcing or Certified Sourcing standards, and select sites are certified to the SFI and PEFC Chain of Custody standards.