How did you and your company, Hayward Lumber, get involved in sustainability?
In 1996, I'd been running the company for three or four years, and I was sitting at a lunch with the director of environmental policy studies at Monterey Institute of International Studies. She said, “This is a great company you're running. What's your environmental policy?” I said, “My what?” You know, I had the same answer every dealer had: “Well, we buy from people who reforest.” And she said, “Well, there are a few more questions you might want to ask.” So that began my journey. … In 1999, we became the first lumberyard in the country to stock and sell Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)–certified lumber.
As someone who works mainly on the material supply side of the business, what does “green building” mean to you?
I think of green building as just the next generation of building technology: products that last longer and don't require as much maintenance, that use less water, that are more resource-efficient, and that ultimately can be sustained and reharvested—products that will promote a habitable planet.
What do you bring to the FSC-U.S. that is a little different?
I think what I bring as the new board chair is that I'm not so deeply embedded in the system. The boards of the past 15 years have had to do tremendous work to build the system in the details. I'm more in the market. I have the desire to really ensure that products are sold and valued in the marketplace.
There's a lot of argument in the industry about whether the FSC's requirements are too stringent. What's your take?
One, FSC is global, and a lot of the wood we source for U.S. construction is [globally sourced]. Two, what the FSC system does better than anybody else is create a verifiable chain of custody and transparent, third-party auditing to an actual standard. SFI [the Sustainable Forestry Initiative] really focuses on the U.S. market, which is great. But there's no on-product label. There's no brand value in the market. FSC has brought integrity and authenticity to the table that withstands global scrutiny.
What are some of the issues the FSC is going to be focusing on in the next few years?
Some issues are illegal logging; continuing to bring more and more of the tropical South into the system; developing the U.S. market, which is critical; and helping to bring small family forests into the system. Most of the nation's acres are held by small family forests, and if we can create a group certification, it will make it easier for them to adopt forestry plans. And then the last and key piece, a little out there, is the biomass market. As power plants want to fuel themselves up on biomass from the forests, that's going to put huge pressure on forests. That's the next frontier.