Positive Social Impact
People are the key to our success – our team, our customers and the communities we work in. We support local and national economies by providing jobs and employment opportunities, as well as giving back through support of selected causes.
ArborGen’s culture is defined by the questions that we ask ourselves and each other as we work:
Is it fair? Is it right? Does it help our customer? Am I holding myself and others accountable? Have I been transparent? Is there a better way to perform my task or meet our customer’s needs? Every manager is expected to lead by example in making sure these elements inform all of our decisions and actions. These values are complemented by encouraging anyone in the organisation to speak up and address their concerns and bring forth their ideas for improving the company. This has created a culture that is transparent, customer focused, action and accountability oriented and committed to success.
We care and support our own people and have an inclusive workforce that recognises the value of diversity. We strive to recruit, train and maintain a diverse team of individuals and enhance their own career goals while supporting the company’s mission. We encourage the participation of women and minorities in the forestry industry. Currently, 57% of our workforce is made of up women, with a total workforce of 380 full time employees from many different ethnicities.
Health, safety and wellness is our top priority and our aim is to create a culture that keeps our workers safe and healthy at work, at home and while travelling. Safety is imbued in our corporate culture, and every manager is accountable for the safety of their team. ArborGen has implemented a comprehensive safety programme throughout the company. Every facility in the company has a designated safety officer, and safety committees operate at every level of the company. We use the RAM (Risk Assessment Matrix) and the SixS programmes to ensure we are continually and consistently addressing safety issues.
We also promote wellbeing and encourage our employees to be physically fit. We do this by offering fitness goal challenges and offering a wellness benefit to our employees for reduced insurance premiums once they complete yearly fitness exams.
This is exemplified by our response to the Covid pandemic. As soon as the virus became an issue we instituted strict Covid protocols at all of our facilities. In the US these protocols required:
Masking, social distancing and extensive sanitation;
Employees not coming to work and quarantining if exposed to someone who was or might be infected; and
Allowing employees to work from home if job duties permitted.
In the case of the corporate office we defined traffic flows. We dramatically reduced travel to that necessary to physically transport material or take measurements in the field.
During the cone harvest, lift and pack and MCP bagging seasons we had over a hundred contract labourers working at our facilities, sometimes in close quarters. We required them to follow the same protocols as our regular staff. As a result, although some employees contracted the virus outside of work we did not have a single case of “community spread” in any of our US facilities.
We followed similar practices in Brazil where we had 60-80 employees at each of our two nurseries throughout the pandemic and again had no cases of community spread in spite of the high levels of infection in the Brazilian population. In New Zealand and Australia, we complied with all lock-down and other restrictions and our operations were relatively unaffected.
We have a Code of Conduct that guides the behaviour of all our people and is focused on creating a rewarding and comfortable work environment that recognises and rewards the efforts of our people. We have zero tolerance for any harassment or discrimination and we have active ongoing programmes that address workplace equity, harassment and discrimination in which our employees are engaged. Employees are encouraged to report violations without reprisal from their superiors or their co-workers.
In FY21, we directly employed 380 people in our business. Additionally, we had contract employees supporting our operations in our nurseries and orchards. Ethical labour practices are very important to us and we pay fair wages and salaries. We conduct biennial remuneration reviews to ensure that there is pay equity at all levels of ArborGen to minimise inadvertent discrimination that may affect retention and career progression.
We are only successful when our customers are. This drives our focus on creating strong and long term relationships with our customers by understanding and responding to their needs. We do not just supply seedlings to them but also the advice and support necessary for a successful reforestation programme.
We provide seedlings to approximately 2,500 customers each year, many of whom have been buying from us for decades. In each of the areas in which we operate, our customers range from the largest industrial and financial landowner in the market to small private landowners who only plant occasionally. We have multi-year contracts with many of our customers that call for them to buy all, or a large portion of their seedlings from us every year.
We have nurseries, orchards and offices on 35 sites around the world. We are conscious of our role as a responsible corporate citizen and look to have a positive impact on the people around us.
Each nursery is encouraged to participate and contribute to organisations in their community. For example, in the US, ArborGen supports the Dorchester Children’s Center, a treatment facility for neglected and abused children, and animal rescue centres. We are also supporters of Center for Heirs Property, an organisation that provides economic benefit to underserved landowners through forestry and legal services in South Carolina. In each US state where we conduct business, we support Log-A-Load, a charitable arm of the state forestry associations. The contributions are made to the children’s hospital in that state. We have contributed both money and historic material to the Forest History Society in North Carolina.