M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

The Murdock Trust invests in capacity-building projects at nonprofit organizations across the Pacific Northwest. When one grant helps create new opportunities and increase the impact of a nonprofit’s work down the line, we call it the ripple effect. The Stories of Impact series on our website is intended to help shed light on the outcomes driven by some of the outstanding organizations the Murdock Trust has been fortunate to support in recent years.  

Just as a seed planted now is a tree in twenty years, so does one grant now grow with impact over time. For the Forest Stewardship Council, the seed was funding support for a new Senior Technology Officer position. Not even two years later, it is already bearing fruit that will have an impact on the future of forestry.

About Forest Stewardship Council

The logo for Forest Stewardship Council on a stack of cardboard boxes
An FSC-certified box

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a global organization – with a US office in Seattle – that promotes environmentally sound, socially beneficial, and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests. “We want healthy forests today, and for future generations,” says Sharon London, Development Director.

FSC helps conserve high conservation value forests and wildlife habitats, support community and worker rights, and respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Paying equal attention to environmental, economic, and social factors, FSC member representatives from 89 countries work together to determine the standard for certifying forests and forest products. If you’ve looked closely at your Costco receipt or an Allbirds box, you’ve likely seen the FSC certification label. It’s no surprise that such a recognizable logo is considered the gold standard for forest product certification.

What may come as a surprise, however, is that when FSC considered the areas of greatest opportunity and potential in fighting the climate crisis and protecting forests, technology was identified as one of their top tools.

Scaling for Impact

Scot McQueen, who was hired as Senior Technology Officer at FSC after the Trust approved the grant in November 2020, explained that technology is the best way to multiply FSC’s impact over time and geography.

“We need a way to scale forest certification,” says Scot. “Otherwise it takes too many bodies to scale at the level we need to make change on the planet, what with our climate crisis and how forests are being destroyed. We need technology to get it done.”

Technology and collaboration, that is. One of the most exciting results of Scot’s work has been the creation of the FSC Tech Consortium.

This consortium is a gathering of top sustainability-focused executives from major tech corporations based in the region, including Amazon Web Services, DocuSign, Esri, Microsoft, Planet, Salesforce, Trimble, and Slalom. About once per month, leaders from these organizations meet to discuss case studies and brainstorm solutions for problems related to the climate and deforestation crises. They’re looking for innovative ideas using their collective technological resources.

“Building this Tech Consortium where people want to come and participate and give us their best thoughts, it’s what I would call a force multiplier,” says Scot. “It kind of snowballs out.”

As a result of these conversations, FSC and the greater effort to conserve forests are already seeing impact. A recent collaboration with Slalom is using AI to forecast areas of high risk for illegally harvested or traded wood across the world. Planet, another member of the Tech Consortium, is providing minute imagery of forests in Gabon using satellite data so FSC staff can look at individual trees to see if they’ve been cut down – without having to leave their desks.

In fact, thanks to a relationship developed through this Tech Consortium, Esri, the global market leader in GIS software, granted FSC access to geospatial technology valued at $1.8 million. This will help improve accessibility of mapping software for forest stewards around the world, particularly for Indigenous Peoples and community and family forests stewards.

A forest that has been certified by Forest Stewardship Council in the United States
An FSC-certified forest in the U.S.

This grant from Esri is an example of the “force multiplier” effect Scot described. Thanks to Scot’s hire, the Tech Consortium was born. Thanks to the Tech Consortium, this relationship with Esri was deepened. Thanks to that relationship, FSC received a new grant that will have global reach. At the Trust, we call this the ripple effect, and it is exactly the type of long-term impact we believe each grant can make.

The Future of Forest Management

The results of this Tech Consortium are already speaking for themselves, but the FSC team believes the future is even brighter. The energy in each gathering and the support and investment from every tech leader is encouraging, says Scot.

“This Tech Consortium is by far the most exciting thing I’ve been a part of in terms of potential impact,” says Sharon. “I’ve been doing conservation work for over twenty years and I keep thinking, ‘Wow! We have the potential to really make positive change for our world’s forests, and for the climate crisis too.’”

There are still major questions facing forest management leaders: How do we stop deforestation? How do we control illegal logging? How do we know where on the planet to focus our attention for the greatest impact? These questions aren’t going away, but thanks to the Tech Consortium and FSC’s commitment to collaborative problem-solving, the solutions feel closer at hand.

“Scot has really brought this team approach to our partnerships,” says Sharon. “We all need to work together, and it’s not just a transaction. It’s building relationships for the future.”

Thank you, Forest Stewardship Council, for truly seeing the forest for the trees and investing in sustainable solutions. The Murdock Trust is honored to partner with you, for the future of forests and the flourishing of communities around the world.

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