New Opportunities Blooming for Natural Infrastructure and Caterpillar Business

Oct 28, 2015 10:35 AM ET

New opportunities blooming for natural infrastructure and Caterpillar business

Looking out over 65 acres of green prairie grasses, Robert Scoville, Caterpillar's Environmental Health and Safety Senior Associate at the Decatur, Illinois, Earthmoving Facility, knows that supporting the prairie restoration partnership* in his community is having a big impact beyond Decatur’s city limits. In fact, this land reclamation project has the potential to positively impact our climate.

Restoring degraded lands provides a natural option for capturing and storing carbon—often called carbon sequestration. Acting as a “carbon sink,” the land and plant life offer carbon dioxide – a major greenhouse gas (GHG) – a safe and natural place to return.

“Every day we are bombarded with media coverage and policy discussions about the evils of carbon in our atmosphere. While we are right to be concerned, we should remind ourselves every day that carbon itself isn’t evil, we just need to be smarter about how we manage it,” said Caterpillar’s Global Director of Sustainable Development, Tim Lindsey.

Remember grade school science class when you learned that plants need carbon as part of photosynthesis? That hasn’t changed. Along with sunlight and water, plants absorb carbon dioxide and convert those energy sources to fuel plant life and ultimately release oxygen that supports life on Earth. The reason land restoration is so important is because when lands lose their plant life (as a result of deforestation, desertification, wetland destruction, severe erosion and/or contamination), the carbon tied up in the plants’ biomass decays and is released to the atmosphere. Land degradation has contributed billions of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere historically and, unfortunately, the trend continues today. 

As the earth’s population grows from 7 billion to over 9 billion in the next few decades, restoring the health and productivity of our natural infrastructure – from forests and prairies to agricultural land, coastal landscapes, and wetlands – will become paramount for addressing the growing need for food, clean air and clean water. Healthy natural infrastructure has many other co-benefits – including productive fisheries along our coasts, increased biodiversity, improved storm resilience, recreation and tourism opportunities, improved water quality and enhanced scenic beauty. Healthy lands also offer the most productive means for removing carbon from the atmosphere, placing it where it can become a valuable component of soils, plants and ecosystems.

Good for the Environment, Good for Business

The restoration of degraded lands makes sense for our resource-constrained world, but it also makes sense for Caterpillar business. Caterpillar equipment is necessary for the complex restoration projects like reforestation, coastal restoration and mine reclamations. While some restoration initiatives have achieved small pockets of success around the globe and many regions are setting goals for development, a fully integrated industry has yet to develop. In an attempt to catalyze the industry of natural infrastructure restoration – helping to move it from a strong concept to a sustainable business model – Caterpillar is convening diverse stakeholders for the Restoring Natural Infrastructure Summit in New York City. 

“Our deep relationships with a wide range of infrastructure businesses – from traditional construction to sustainable building to agriculture to energy and transportation – put us in a unique position to give this sustainability topic the focus it deserves,” said Karl Weiss, vice president with responsibility for Caterpillar’s Earthmoving Division, who will chair Caterpillar’s November 4 summit of thought leaders on the topic. “We believe this could represent new opportunities for Caterpillar and our customers. But, more importantly, we recognize that preserving and restoring our natural assets just makes sense for our business and our global community.”

Learn more about the Restoring Natural Infrastructure Summit and the opportunities it represents for Caterpillar. 

Read about Caterpillar’s early involvement in land restoration work and how it contributes to our Sustainability commitment.

Learn about Caterpillar’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


*Located on Caterpillar property across from the Decatur manufacturing facility, the Prairie for Bioenergy Demonstration Plots are contributing to the carbon sequestration and water quality improvements in Macon County, Illinois.