Businesses can be profitable by stopping deforestation and tackling climate change.
That’s according to Eric Bettelheim, CEO and Chairman of Floresta Singapore who believes investing in commercial forestry is viable for businesses.
Speaking to ELN, Mr Bettelheim said: “Commercial forest projects particularly in the tropics not only have a significant yield but they also help preserve the remaining forests and those forests store enormous amounts of carbon. So when you combine both storing carbon by growing trees with the impact of the commercial investment on preserving intact forests, you gain enough carbon in terms of carbon offsets to completely offset even the emissions of a very large business such as a large coal-fired utility.
“That allows the business to continue in its mainstream business, make a profit on its investments which is not bad in this day and age of low interest rates and do an enormous amount of good for the environment.”
He believes although some businesses have made efforts to offset the impacts of fossil fuels like switching from coal to gas and installing renewables, commercial forestry is very attractive for the fossil fuel sector as it is a “win-win” for them and “very simple to implement”.
He added: “We are going to have fossil fuels for a long time to come certainly for a few several decades… The question is how does the fossil fuel industry-based business such as a utility or a refinery continue in its business and reduce or mitigate its impact?
“The attractiveness of commercial forestry in the tropics is that it can be done on an industrial scale and it supplies a commodity which we do need and is a commodity that is endlessly renewable and has very low price volatility so wood is a very stable type of commodity to invest in.”
Apart from businesses, Mr Bettelheim believes although governments are committed to stopping deforestation, “very few” of them see this concept as viable.
He said some governments in Asia, South Asia, Central America and Africa want to stop deforestation but they don’t want to hurt their local economies.
Mr Bettelheim added: “What is lacking so far is the leadership to take these steps. It is not a lack of support by governments, it is not lack of support by local governments in these countries, it is the courage and the imagination to see that they need to do something new in order to continue their business in an environment where carbon emissions are increasingly under pressure.”