1. Policy’s purpose and use

The Woodland Trust is committed to be, at all times, and across all its activities, a sustainable, diverse and inclusive organisation, driven by ethical values and principles. This policy details those ethical principles as well as our commitments to embed these principles across our activities. It influences many other policies governing how we work and it is supported by tools to assist decision making where there are conflicting demands.

This policy is endorsed by the Management Team and the Board of Trustees and responsibility for its implementation lies with the Chief Executive.

2. Our ethical principles

The Woodland Trust exists to realise all the environmental, social and economic benefits that woods and trees bring to society. Our vision is for a world where native woods and trees thrive for people
and nature. We will:

  • protect woodland, fighting to defend native woodland, especially irreplaceable ancient woodland. We will work to challenge all further loss of ancient woodland from whatever cause.
  • restore woodland, ensuring the restoration of all damaged ancient woodland and the recreation of native wooded landscapes.
  • create woodland, championing the need for tree planting and woodland expansion to create more resilient landscapes and secure the future of the UK’s native trees and woodland.

This policy covers the ethical standards we set and uphold for ourselves and for others. In delivery of our policy commitments we will be pragmatic and realistic: our ethical values are firmly rooted in the real world, recognising that in some cases there will be conflicting demands or dilemmas, and a need to balance many differing aspects (for example, financial, ethical, environmental and reputational).

We expect organisations that we invest in, that supply us, or who partner with us to:

  • respect and comply with the detail and the spirit of the ethical policy wherever possible,
  • be clear to us where this is not possible so that we can act with integrity in our decision making.

The standards we set ourselves are at least as high, and usually higher, than the standards we expect of others. In our engagement with third parties we will seek to strike a balance between negative and positive actions: in some cases our response to an ethical issue will be “negative” i.e. we will not work with/buy from/invest in an organisation. In other cases we may determine that we can exert a “positive” influence on such an  organisation, therefore we may work with them in order to seek to influence a change in behaviour or policy on a specific area. This will only be where it can be  clearly demonstrated that there is genuine senior leadership commitment.

3. Our ethical commitments

We will:

  • contribute positively to the global sustainability agenda and report our impacts in a consistent and transparent format aligned to globally recognised best practice for sustainability reporting.
  • have clear internal policies outlining our commitment to employee and volunteer health and safety, safeguarding, diversity and inclusion, support and wellbeing.
  • manage our own environmental performance to an externally recognised standard, continually improving upon our material areas of impact.
  • avoid involvement in any of our ethical issues of concern within our own activities.
  • assess organisations we are, or are considering working with, for their involvement in any of our ethical issues of concern.
  • where strategic opportunities arise, we may work with organisations to influence a change in behaviour or policy around any issues of ethical concern, but if we feel a supplier / partner is not able or unmotivated to reach our standards, refrain from working with them.
  • use our ethical principles to define our approach when undertaking and commissioning research.
  • optimise financial sustainability (including in investment decisions, procurement decisions, corporate partnerships, and influencing), without compromising our social or environmental values.
  • constantly challenge our own performance on diversity and inclusion and take active steps to reflect and represent wider society in our governance and decision-making. 
  • identify and root out barriers to inclusion within our workforce and to access, enjoyment and benefit of woods and trees within the communities we are part of.
  • review our ethical issues of concern at least annually to ensure they reflect our areas of greatest concern.

4. Ethical issues of concern 

The following issues of ethical concern for the Woodland Trust will be considered in our ethical appraisal of our own activities and of those who we engage with:

  • excessive climate change impacts – global or local
  • poor forestry practices
  • unsustainably managed forests
  • loss of biodiversity
  • poor wildlife management
  • loss of or damage to ancient or veteran trees or ancient woodland
  • trade that could result in tree disease impacts
  • inappropriate development impacting woodland habitats
  • discriminatory and non-inclusive practices
  • modern slavery or human trafficking
  • poor labour standards, unsafe practices or human rights violations
  • fraudulent or corrupt business practices.

Board approved: September 2021