Managed Timberland Portfolio Achieves 98% Certification Rate
July 2022 – FIA is pleased to announce the successful certification of more than 1.8 million acres of forests to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) Forest Management standard. This represents an increase of approximately 300,000 acres, comprising both previously managed timberlands and recently acquired areas. The 2022 audits and certification update brings FIA’s total certification rate to 98% by area, which includes more than 2 million acres of certified forests in the United States, Brazil, and Chile. Nearly 400,000 acres of these lands are certified to the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) forest management standard, with some forests in the US being certified to both FSC and SFI in line with local forestry and timber market conditions.
FIA’s U.S. Southern Operations Manager, Tom Trembath, manages the company’s certification programs. Tom shared, “I commend the FIA team and our field service providers for readying all the new management units to enter the certification program this year. An expansion of this scale and across different timberland regions requires coordination and commitment. The nearly full certification of our portfolio is a strong achievement, boosted by positive commendations from the auditors and no adverse audit findings.”
FIA has managed investments certified to third-party standards and systems since 2001. FIA manages United States forests under its SFI and FSC certificates. Investments outside the United States are managed under third-party held certificates. In the past, the decision to certify has been driven by client interests and market demand for certified products, leading to around 77% of management units being certified over recent years. However, FIA believes that as both certification programs and the field of sustainable investing have matured, forest certification can now provide additional benefits for investors, including third-party assurance of sustainable management, transparency for stakeholders, and potential option value for engaging in environmental markets. With these factors in mind, FIA undertook a review of forest certification across the managed investment portfolio and endorsed a recommendation to pursue full certification of all management units. FIA Portfolio Managers engaged with clients holding non-certified properties and encouraged their inclusion into FIA-managed certificates, resulting in nearly all properties being submitted for inclusion in the 2022 audit.
“Our certification review included carefully evaluating the potential impacts to forest management planning and valuation while balancing these against the perceived benefits of certification. We also wanted to be intentional in how we worked with our clients to gain their consent for inclusion into FIA’s SFI Forest Management Program,” explained Mike Cerchiaro, FIA’s Senior VP and Director of Investment Management. “These are ultimately our clients’ forest investments, and certification gives them credible assurance that we are managing the forests responsibly for the long term alongside our active and directed investment management.”
FIA’s certification programs are a key service provided as part of the company’s commitment to active forest management for its clients’ portfolios. The certification process also aligns with FIA’s commitment as a responsible investor, including considering environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors throughout asset management. FIA’s Director of Sustainability and ESG, MaryKate Bullen, noted, “As responsible investment continues to mainstream for institutional investors, we see more clients wanting to closely understand the environmental and social impacts of their timberland investment portfolios. Forest certification offers a strong toolkit to identify and manage sustainability risks in forest management but also helps clients and other stakeholders understand how forests can be used to provide ESG solutions as well. We find our certification programs are an invaluable engagement tool with our clients, field service providers, and the broader industry.”
For more information about FIA’s approach to sustainable forestry investment and active management please see our Contact Us page.