WHO WE ARE
Sustainable Forest Systems has been working since 1991 to maintain or improve the quality of forest, improve the quality of life of people we work with, and help create an asset class that can provide an economic return to long-term investors. Practically, those goals mean we manage the forest wisely, using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification in our forests.
We provide good economic opportunity to local people, and we structure our investments in tropical forests to provide an acceptable, long-term return. We invite you to join us in creating true sustainable opportunities.
The idea for SFS started in 1990 when Jeffrey Atkin read an article about the first global satellite images tracking tropical deforestation. As a commodity trader he was interested in supply/demand imbalances and the story of tropical deforestation coupled with increasing demand and inability to regrow the forests sparked an idea: Why not invest in tropical forests like people invest in temperate softwoods?
SFS started its first pilot project in 1995 in Paraguay at Yaguarete Forests on about 10,000 hectares of tropical forests. Yaguarete Forests was one of the first FSC operations in Latin America. We later moved on to Bolivia managing about 550,000 hectares of forest of our own and in partnership with indigenous and social groups. We also built a first class manufacturing complex in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.
SFS has been a consistent voice for free market environmentalism since 1991. SFS has been featured by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, published in letters to the editors in publications as diverse as Scientific American and The Economist, and has won recognition in the investment community.
In 2005, Sustainable Forest Systems was awarded recognition from Universities Superannuation Scheme and Hewitt Bacon & Woodrow in the global competition (contact us to receive) Managing Pension Fund Assets As If The Long Term Really Did Matter. From a total of 88 entries, the judging panel comprising seven senior industry experts selected Sustainable Forest Systems’ entry as the runner-up for the corporate category.
Sustainable Forest Systems (SFS) started as an idea. In 1989 after CEO Jeffrey Atkin read an article about the first global satellite image research showing the extent of the loss of tropical forests. Atkin was a former floor trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange and had made markets in petroleum products based on careful supply/demand analysis. The article sparked an intuition: If these forests were disappearing so rapidly then perhaps he should invest part of his long-term portfolio in mahogany futures.
But mahogany futures didn’t exist—they still don’t—and Atkin didn’t fully understand the biology and ecology of rainforests. Eighteen months of studying the ecology, biology, and market statistics convinced him that a bull market in tropical hardwoods was about to commence.
He saw three major market drivers that, together, would propel the market for tropical hardwoods and tropical forests.
The first was that a rainforest couldn’t be regrown in a plantation setting—once clear-cut, rainforests were gone forever. The second, log export bans, was a policy failure by local governments that wanted to encourage local jobs but did so at the expense of suppressing the price of local rainforest logs.
The third was that these rainforest timbers were already the low-cost supply source for many manufacturing applications and demand for these timbers was increasing significantly.
Most rainforests are located in countries that, in 1989, didn’t have the legal protections that the USA and Europe had. (Many still don’t.) Atkin believed he could create private mechanisms in lieu of government protections to reduce risk by guaranteeing that the environmental, social, and financial aspects all worked well together. Years later these three aspects were described by others as “People, Planet, and Profits.”
For Sustainable Forest Systems it means that we maintain or improve the quality of forest, that we improve the quality of life of people near the forest, and that the forest provides sufficient economic return to long-term investors.
Practically, those principles mean we use at minimum Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification in our forests, we provide good economic opportunity to local people, and we structure our investments in tropical forests to provide an acceptable, long-term return.
We combine the three principles of improving forest, quality of life, and providing investor returns with one operating tenet: Treat people as we want to be treated.
SFS has used those operating principles successfully in Paraguay and Bolivia and we expect to work in places like Brazil and other tropical areas shortly.
One of the most gratifying aspects of working in places like Paraguay, Bolivia, and other tropical countries is that the formula actually works. People want to do good, they are proud of their work, they are proud of their forests, and they really like doing business honestly and transparently.
We invite you to join us in creating true sustainable forest opportunities.