How does a company that specializes in forestry products benefit the environment? Uruguay’s Weyerhaeuser Productos S.A. does it by planting new forests in northern Uruguay and powering its operations with clean energy.

With 129,500 hectares of sustainably harvested timberland, the company offsets the emissions equivalent of two FIFA World Cup tournaments.

Carbon capture

Weyerhaeuser Productos practices “afforestation”: planting new forests in Uruguay’s grasslands. (Courtesy photo)

Weyerhaeuser Productos practices “afforestation”: planting forests where none existed before. The company replaced degraded grazing grasslands with carbon dioxide–absorbing pine and eucalyptus forests.

It’s good for the environment, and good for the community: The company’s projects have doubled local employment and increased land productivity by factors of six to eight.

“Its contributions to environmental issues have been extremely important,” said Pedro Soust, director-general of forestry in Uruguay.

Clean energy champion

Instead of purchasing electricity from the national grid, Weyerhaeuser Productos decided to work with U.S. and other Uruguayan company teams to build and operate Uruguay’s first co-generation plant. It runs not on petroleum but sustainable, alternative biomass. Today, the co-generation plant sells additional clean power back to Uruguay’s national power grid.

New growth: Safety and education

Weyerhaeuser’s strong worker safety procedures are spreading throughout the Uruguayan forestry and agricultural industries. The company even helps the government and local businesses develop their own safety standards.

Roberto Scoz, director of Uruguay’s National Forest Research Program, said Weyerhaeuser “was able to channel their corporate culture into new territory in a way that was genuine.”

The company also has partnered with the Ministry of Education to introduce “Project Learning Tree in Uruguay,” an environmental program that helps students understand the importance of sound environmental stewardship.

Weyerhaeuser Productos is a finalist for the 2015 Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence in the Environmental Sustainability category. Started in 1999, the awards recognize American companies that are leaders in responsible business practices.