Walking amongst the eucalyptus and pine trees near the Cotopaxi National Park in Ecuador, one can see Felipe Pazmiño is happy working as a manager for Aglomerados Cotopaxi – a company committed to sustainable forestry management.
Located a mere 70km from the country’s capital, Quito, Aglomerados Cotopaxi’s plantations are situated on lands with high forest aptitude, excellent soil, climate, and topography conditions. Overlooking the hectares of trees is one of Ecuador’s greatest natural symbols, the Cotopaxi volcano.
Established in 1978, Aglomerados Cotopaxi has become a leader in forestry plantations and produces and sells wooden boards. The company holds 17,655 hectares of forest, of which 30% are dedicated to conservation. “It is an honor to work at a sustainable company that is committed to its surroundings to promote good business practices,” Pazmiño says.
As manager of the Forestry Unit at Aglomerados Cotopaxi, Pazmiño is able to see firsthand the work being done to conserve Ecuador’s unique biodiversity. The company implements several sustainable forest management activities such as post-plantation control, and careful harvesting. As water resources in this area come from the Cotopaxi Volcano glaciers and the surrounding water springs, water management is also a key element for the equilibrium of the forest and welfare of neighboring communities. “It brings me peace of mind to know that future generations will be able to come to Cotopaxi and see how we have responsibly looked after the environment through our forestry programs.”
Being surrounded by communities and natural beauty typical of Andean landscapes has clearly motivated Aglomerados Cotopaxi to excel in forest resource management. In 1996, Aglomerados Cotopaxi launched its Forestry Management Plan with the following objectives:
1. Establishing specific forests for wood production.
2. Providing support and guidance in forest management and wood production to supply industrial plants.
3. Incorporating environmental and social aspects into the management of productive forests.
The company’s certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a testament to the success of Aglomerados Cotopaxi’s sustainability efforts. The FSC certification confirms that the management of the company’s forests and plantations complies with strict international standards on responsible forest management, based on social, environmental, and economic criteria. “At the moment, we find ourselves in a period of industrial growth that demands a greater amount of raw material, making it necessary to grow the forestry model sustainably and become better known in the region,” explains Pazmiño. In addition to the USA, Aglomerados Cotopaxi currently exports its products to Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Central America.
Alongside the environment, Aglomerados Cotopaxi is also dedicated to the wellbeing of its employees and the surrounding communities. “The vast majority of employees are very committed to the company,” says Pazmiño. “This promotes trust between colleagues and creates a friendly work environment.”
In 2003, the company formalized its social responsibility programs for workers and the communities surrounding the plantations. For example,the company encourages farmers to implement rotational grazing on designated portions of its land, supporting additional income generation through sustainable cattle ranching. Local communities are able to harvest wild mushrooms that grow in the forest: In fact, up to 30,000 kg of fresh mushrooms are collected and sold annually. Not only has the company guided local families in this business by providing equipment, facilities, and training, they have also implemented a network of water channels that provide water supply to 2,300 families. Aglomerados Cotopaxi looks for quality assurance and enhancement of processes and products in all aspects of its operations. Caring about people and the environment is viewed as an integral part of the company’s development. “I am fortunate to work in the field in close contact with nature, and in the office working with other passionate, likeminded colleagues,” says Pazmiño appreciatively.