David Ford, biz consultant and forest advocate, answers questions
With what environmental organization are you affiliated?
I am the president and CEO of Metafore, an enterprise nonprofit based in Portland, Ore.
How does it relate to the environment?
We help businesses align their practices so they achieve positive social and environmental outcomes. In Metafore’s view of the world, “Every business is in the forest business.”
Our initial focus was on how businesses can have a positive effect on the world’s forests and the people who depend on those forests through their wood and paper purchasing practices. Today, we are beginning to look beyond the trees and the forests to apply what we have learned over the past nine years to other products being produced, purchased, and used in everyday life.
What are you working on at the moment?
We are focused on two key projects at the moment: The Forest Leadership Forum is a conference (being held in Portland next month) where we bring action-oriented global leaders in business, environment, and society together to highlight ways that business can be the key driver of environmental and social progress. The Paper Working Group is a collaborative project in which 11 high-volume buyers of paper and paperboard products in a variety of sectors, mostly Fortune 500 companies, came together to make environmentally preferable paper products more widely available and affordable.
How do you get to work?
I drive to work, but I carpool when it is practical. I drive a 12-year-old Lexus that is rolling up on 110,000 miles. I plan to get at least 20 years out of it! Last month, I bought a Toyota Prius — what a great car! Though the rest of my family only lets me at it on the weekends.
What long and winding road led you to your current position?
My grandfather had a significant influence on my direction; he was an outdoorsman. Even though I was a boy from the suburbs of Chicago, I spent my youth learning to fish, garden, hunt mushrooms in the woods, and appreciate wildlife. My love of the outdoors led me to a degree in forestry.
After college, I began my career as a forest firefighter in northern California. After nine years in government service, I headed to Sacramento to represent the interests of the forest-products industry. In the mid-1980s, I ended up in Washington, D.C., as a lobbyist for the forest-product industry’s national trade association. When the spotted owl was listed under the Endangered Species Act, the world that I knew quickly changed. The war in the woods became very real — conflict was the order of the day.
I moved to Portland in 1991 to lead a trade group representing small forest-products companies all over the West. The war continued on, and I grew weary of the conflict. That’s when I began to realize that there had to be a better way.
That better way is working with business leaders in a collaborative fashion through the marketplace to improve environmental and social outcomes.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born in Harvey, Ill., a suburb south of Chicago. During the past 30 years, I have lived in the forests of northern California, in Washington, D.C., and, since 1991, in Portland, Ore. Jim Morrison had it right: “The West is the best.”
What environmental offense has infuriated you the most?
Littering. I just can’t fathom the concept behind littering. And what really drives me insane are those who think cigarette butts are somehow not litter.
What’s your environmental vice?
French fries. Where does all of that grease go, anyway?
How do you spend your free time?
When I’m not spending time on Metafore, I am with my two kids. They are both active in several sports, and I have spent the last five years coaching baseball and softball, including two state championships with my daughter. My son has also won two state baseball championships. (I am a bit competitive!)
My true passion is wine. I have been a collector for 25 years. I love French wines and my newest passion (obsession) is Oregon pinot noirs.
What’s your favorite meal?
Wild salmon, marinated with Canadian maple syrup and OJ, simply grilled, accompanied with rice (maybe French fries) and veggies — my favorites are asparagus, broccoli, and super sweet organic corn from Trader Joe’s. Also, a bottle of either Ken Wright or Domain Serene — two of the best Oregon pinot noirs. And my favorite dessert … something chocolate!
What’s your favorite place or ecosystem?
The Pacific Northwest forests!
If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?
Everyone should have to know where the products they are buying and using come from, and the impacts — both positive and negative.
Who was your favorite musical artist when you were 18? How about now?
What’s your favorite TV show? Movie?
Which actor would play you in the story of your life?
I’d say a quality supporting actor, like Gene Hackman or somebody of that ilk. He always seems to make those around him look better and be more successful.
If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?
I’d love to see consumers write letters to the boards of directors of companies that are working hard to bring environmental and social criteria into their business operations, applauding them for taking a leadership position. All too often, we are quick to point fingers and lambaste companies for their missteps, while we ignore some of the really innovative things that are occurring on the corporate social responsibility or sustainability front but take time to blossom.
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