GreenWood Resources: A Global Sustainable Venture in the Making
GreenWood Resources Inc. was founded in 1998 by Jeff Nuss, a bio-resources engineer. It was a Portland, Oregon, USA-based investment and asset management company with a worldwide focus on high-yield and fast-growing tree farms. In spite of its global vision, value proposition and pursuit of environmental stewardship and social responsibility, GreenWood had struggled for almost 10 years to obtain significant investment funds until 2007-2008. Through persistent effort, GreenWood built the key elements (people, resources and business networks) for a successful venture despite the serious early financial constraints. GreenWood entered and navigated the Chinese market, deciding to establish its China operation with only a fraction of the funds it needed. Jeff seized an opportunity to organize a US$175 million private equity fund through his connections with the timber investment community to acquire a large poplar plantation in Oregon. The expanded scale and personnel resulting from the acquisition enabled GreenWood to become a visible player in the tree plantation industry and facilitated its securing an additional commitment of US$200 million of capital for use in the Chinese market. Notwithstanding the availability of the capital and its cumulative knowledge of the Chinese market, the investment screening and negotiation process in China turned out to be complex due to the differences in business approaches and culturally embedded mindsets. In June 2010, Jeff and his team were weighing the pros and cons of two potential projects. They felt that GreenWood needed to proceed carefully to ensure its criteria of sustainable business (in terms of economic performance, social responsibility and environmental stewardship) were met in China but also realized the company should show some progress to its major investor in China, Oriental Timber Fund Limited. Jeff and his senior management team needed to decide whether they should recommend investing in one of the two projects.