Family Forest Blog

Board Member Spotlight: Sophie Beckham

American Forest Foundation

August 17, 2023

A spotlight on a green background.

In 2023, the American Forest Foundation (AFF) launched a new strategic direction and welcomed three outstanding individuals to our board of trustees. Weaving their unique perspectives and hard-earned wisdom into the AFF tapestry, these new voices are set to help us tackle climate change and bolster the health of America's family forests for generations to come. Stay tuned as each board member takes center stage in this special Q&A blog series that highlights their distinct experiences and expertise.

We're particularly excited to introduce Sophie Beckham. Joining the AFF board of trustees in 2023, Beckham is the vice president and chief sustainability officer at International Paper. There, she works to advance IP’s sustainability strategy and Vision 2030 goals, and drive sustainable outcomes through the company’s packaging and pulp businesses. She has dedicated her career to driving sustainable business outcomes through purposeful leadership in the consumer goods and forest product manufacturing sectors.

Sophie Beckham headshot.

Sophie Beckham

A Conversation with Sophie Beckham

AFF: First of all, a big hats-off on joining the AFF board of trustees. Can you share what drew you to AFF?

SB: AFF has a long history of leadership on sustainable forest management and conservation issues, working directly with forest landowners and elevating critical issues to policymakers and corporations. With that legacy, and Rita Hite’s transformative leadership at the organizational helm, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to join AFF!

AFF: We seek out and highly value diverse perspectives. Given your wealth of life experiences, professional skills and unique knowledge, what distinct perspectives would you say you contribute to our mission?

SB: My background working globally in the solid wood and pulp and packaging sectors gives me a pretty broad perspective on most forest related issues — I don’t see just one pathway to an outcome, and I have deep experience working with diverse stakeholders to problem solve towards real impact. I have worked closely with some of the largest ENGOs and private sector companies for many years (ok, decades) and bring those relationships and that network to my board role.

AFF: As an individual with considerable expertise in the sustainability world, which facets of our mission do you think we need to emphasize and address with urgency in the upcoming years?

SB: The critical role of landowners in managing forests for carbon, AND in so doing, enhancing social and economic values of forests along with biodiversity, water quality and other co-benefits of sustainable forest management. We don’t have time to lose in this work.

AFF: Women have made significant strides when it comes to leadership roles but there is still a gender gap in many industries. Do you have any words of encouragement or practical advice for other women embarking on a career in corporate sustainability?

SB: Dive in! We need you! I always tell emerging sustainability professionals that there are a lot companies that have ‘arrived’ on their sustainability journey — they are mature in goals, performance and internal buy-in. We look to those companies to set a high bar and inspire, but, we really need sustainability leaders to take on the challenge of advancing companies who might not yet recognize the value of sustainability for their business model or long term future and are just getting started. Go work there! You’ll never be bored, and the opportunity to create change is real. It might not be easy — use your networks, lean on your mentors and allies, and we will all work together to change the system.

AFF: Lastly, just for fun, could you share your all-time favorite forest activity with our readers?

SB: My all-time favorite activity is to be on a trail in the mountains — if I’m with my family, it will be hiking or backpacking. If I’m on my own or with friends, it’s trail running. I’ve spent hours and hours over the years in motion on forest trails, and I do some of my best thinking there.

Thank you to all of our board members for being an integral part of our mission to deliver meaningful conservation impact through the empowerment of family forest owners. Your unique stories remind us how individual perspectives and efforts can unite to create meaningful impact for America's family forests, our communities and the planet. Check back for our next post in the series as we continue this important dialogue.

American Forest Foundation

August 17, 2023

Related Articles

Ethan Ragan, AFF's Outreach Forester, on a winter hike.

April 9, 2024

Forester Spotlight: Ethan Ragan

Ethan grew up in Rochester, Minnesota where he took as many opportunities as he could to get out of town and explore what Minnesota and Wisconsin had to offer.

Read More

Loblolly pine seedlings being planted

March 22, 2024

Partnering to Protect the Planet

The Field to Forest Tour was our most recent gathering designed to convene existing and potential funders from the public and private sectors to scale our collective climate impact.

Read More

March 20, 2024

Reductions, Removals, and the Delicate Dance of Carbon Accounting

Last week, carbon crediting standards body Verra announced the revision of their carbon accounting methodology.

Read More