Mid-day light streams through a forest of tall trees.
It's worth listening to the people who know forests best.
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  • More companies are investing in sustainability methods with roots in Indigenous cultures.
  • Indigenous communities have long-term experience with several climate solutions.
  • Corporations can also learn adaption and risk-management methods from Indigenous cultures.

Sustainability is now a major issue for many corporations and governments, especially with the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference and the publication of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But sustainability has been a central operating principle for Indigenous communities for hundreds of years, through strategies like controlled burns and regenerative agriculture that are designed to establish a long-term balance between human activity and the natural world.

The World Bank defines Indigenous communities as "distinct social and cultural groups that share collective ancestral ties to the lands and natural resources where they live." Corporate executives developing and investing in sustainability strategies can learn from their best practices, especially in industries like agriculture, fishing, and land management.

Indigenous communities are among the groups most vulnerable to the climate crisis because of lower incomes, fewer resources, and often isolated geographic locations. But research indicates how they've maintained a wide variety of plants and animals across many conditions, and the UN has recognized their development of successful and cost-effective adaptation measures.

Companies may also be considering solutions to the climate crisis without knowing how they borrow from Indigenous cultures.

Here are three of the most important ones to know about:

1. Rotational farming

Instead of fields dominated by one or a few kinds of crops, rotational farming (also known as swidden agriculture or shifting cultivation) involves planting a large variety of crops to maximize resources and allow for harvesting over different periods. A UN report says this method yields a more varied inventory for food and medicinal uses, reduces risk due to changes in weather or other growing conditions, and helps increase soil fertility and species adaptations.

2. Regenerative agriculture

A more popular term than rotational farming, regenerative agriculture is described as "any and all forms of agricultural practice that actively restore soil quality, biodiversity, ecosystems health, water quality while producing sufficient food of high nutritional quality." Benefits can include a higher quality of life for farmers, higher profits, and more carbon trapped in the ground than conventional farming methods.

Large companies like Timberland, Kering, Allbirds, Patagonia, General Mills, and Nestlé have poured millions of dollars into figuring out how their suppliers can help restore soil and become one of the solutions to the climate crisis.

3. Forestry management

The UN has estimated that just in Latin America, Indigenous and tribal peoples are involved in the communal governance of 320 million to 380 million hectares of forests, which are crucial in holding and filtering carbon.

Indigenous peoples have been setting controlled, deliberate burns for thousands of years. These strategic, purpose-driven fires promote the growth of food sources like morel mushrooms and animal species like deer and salmon. They also help clear underbrush and open pasture lands.

However, for most of the 20th century, the federal fire policy in the US stressed suppression, aimed at protecting watersheds, communities, and commercial lumber sources. Only recently have Indigenous groups' valuable experience in and knowledge of controlled burning to help prevent much more expensive and catastrophic damage to homes and communities become widely understood.

Corporations need to be aware of this issue because of the amount of Indigenous forest area that has been cut down for commercial uses such as large-scale palm-oil production in Indonesia and cattle ranching in Brazil.

While there may be short-term economic gains from not cooperating with Indigenous communities, it is important to remember the long-term costs to everyone from the use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers; increased water pollution; burned forests; and infertile land.

Read the original article on Business Insider