Forest stumped

I own stock in a wood and paper products company. This company slaughters trees every year but plants even more. I have heard that new trees consume more carbon dioxide than mature ones. Is it possible for me to keep my “tree cred” and still own this stock?

Stocks, huh? That’s so Republican of you—except for the fact that you care about the environmental impact of your investment.

Paper and wood products companies have a bad reputation for devastating forests. And though the Forest Stewardship Council’s label (a tree with a check mark) was created to let consumers know which wood and paper products come from responsibly managed forests, the FSC’s practices were called into question by the Wall Street Journal in October. The Journal reported that wood and paper products companies could obtain the FSC label with just 50 percent of their pulp coming from sustainable forests, as long as the rest of it came from legal sources. The FSC has promised to review its own certification standards, so we’ll see if it moves closer to its original requirements—that wood and paper products companies rely 100 percent on sustainable forests.

As for your question about new trees absorbing more CO2 than older trees: It’s true that as trees grow older, their rate of CO2 absorption slows down. On the other hand, larger trees store more carbon than smaller trees, “sequestering” the greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere. The only drawback is that when larger trees die, they release more CO2 emissions back into the atmosphere as they decay. The latter is justification for planting new trees to maintain a balance in the ecosystem. But it’s crucially important that wood and paper products companies rely on forests that are set up to be sustainable, with consideration for the area’s natural biodiversity.

When planting your money in new stocks, a good rule is to do background research on the company in which you’re investing. If their practices aren’t green, you essentially own part of an environmentally degrading company. Now that’s bad cred.