With severe drought conditions threatening US forests and agriculture for a second-year running, Canada's TD Bank Group today announced TD Forests, a forest conservation program that in addition to unifying the bank's longstanding forest conservation community programs "under one canopy," also includes "a major conservation and education program to protect critical forest habitat across North America," according to a company press release.
More than 90% of North Americans consider forests as natural areas in need of protection, TD noted in announcing the TD Forests initiative. "The approach we're taking with TD Forests is very much part of our goal of embedding an environmental perspective into our business," says Karen Clarke-Whistler, TD Bank Group's chief environment officer. "TD Forests is built on the twin pillars of reduce and grow - reduce paper use and grow the area of protected forest habitat."
Mutually supportive, the banking and financial services group's forestry program dovetails with its commitment to reduce its paper usage by at least 20% by 2015. Through TD Forests, TD expects "to protect forested areas equivalent to the paper it uses."
Conserving North American Forests
TD Forests is similarly part-and-parcel of the bank's broader commitment to carbon-neutral and environmentally sustainable operations. TD in 2010 became the first carbon-neutral bank based in North America, according to the company.
Realizing this environmental sustainability milestone has entailed renovating its facilities. Such efforts have included opening "net zero energy retail outlets and introducing innovative green product options." Similarly, TD intends to leverage the TD Forests program, addressing "customer demand for more paperless product offerings" that "will reduce business expenses and will benefit the environment."
To realize the goals of TD Forests, the bank group's partnered with then Nature Conservancy of Canada and its conservation partners to expand the protected forest habitat across TD's North American operations in Canada and the eastern US at a rate equivalent to the paper it uses. That amounts to "roughly two football fields of forest each and every day," the company explains.
Forging an Environmental Ethic in Response to Customer Demand
More than 70% of people identified air quality as the greatest benefit provided by forests and nearly 90% indicated concern about air quality and the loss of natural areas and wildlife habitat due to deforestation, TD noted.
"Forests are an iconic symbol of our North American story and essential to the health of our planet. The lungs of the earth, they play a vital role in cleaning the air and moderating temperatures, and they're critical habitats for plants and wildlife," commented John Lounds, president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
"Even a forest the size of a football field has a tremendous impact on the air we breathe and on moderating our climate. It can provide a day's oxygen for more than 1,000 people and also absorb the carbon dioxide. That's why forest conservation is so important."
The TD Forests program will focus on three areas during its first five years:
- Business commitment - to radically reduce paper usage in products, services and business operations
- Community commitments - to greening urban environments, forest protection, biodiversity and education
- Volunteerism - dedicated to employee initiatives such as TD Tree Days, the bank's flagship volunteer initiative
TD Forests is the latest major environmental initiative in the bank group's more than 20 years and counting of fostering environmental conservation. Highlighting its 'deep roots' in environmental conservation, TD's achieved the following:
- Since 1990, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation (TD FEF) has supported more than 20,000 local environmental projects. Almost 80 per cent of the $3.6 million that TD FEF provided to organizations in 2011 went to fund educational, conservation, and biodiversity initiatives
- TD Tree Days was introduced in 2010. During the first two years of the program TD volunteers planted more than 46,000 trees across Canada. In 2011, the program was expanded to the U.S. This year more than 40,000 trees will be planted in North America through the program
- Since 2010, TD has provided nearly $1 million in matching grants to municipalities, Aboriginal communities and business improvement associations through TD Green Streets, a national program that supports innovative practices in urban forestry
"Our business commitment is to create value, provide great service to our customers and engage our employees. Our commitment to the environment is an integral part of that," explained Mike Pedersen, group head of Wealth Management, Insurance and Corporate Shared Services, and the bank's senior executive champion for the environment.
"Through initiatives like this one, we will enhance customer choice, while building on our employee and community commitments and benefiting the environment."