1. General Information
I would like to visit the project on site. Can I do that?
With pleasure! We are looking forward to every guest on site, and especially to photos, films, blogs, interviews, which help to bridge the geographical distance between our headquarters in Hamburg and our forests. Please take into consideration that visits are subject to coordination with our local team, for time and capacity constraints.
I would like to become an active member. How can I get involved?
We are delighted with every commitment that leads to the participation of as many people as possible in this movement. It doesn’t matter if it’s through active participation in our social media channels, the annual general meeting, or a project visit on-site. There are many ways to get involved. Contact us for further ideas and suggestions!
I would like to recruit members. Is there a support opportunity to do this?
Yes, we are pleased about every personal recommendation! We are happy to provide you with flyers or to discuss the possibilities to introduce the Generation Forest Co-op in special contexts (events, campaigns, etc.) in a personal meeting.
How do I become a member?
You become a member through the acquisition of one or more cooperative shares. These are also referred to as business shares in our statutes.
How much a cooperative share cost?
One cooperative share (“business share”) costs 1.200€.
Can I become a member of the cooperative without subscribing for shares?
No. The membership is created by subscribing for at least one share.
How does the purchase of cooperative shares work?
Under our tab ‘Join us!’ you will find the form for the subscription process. The easiest way is to fill out the form online, print it, sign it and send it back to us by mail. Scanning is not possible due to legal requirements. You will be notified by e-mail, as soon as the application has been processed.
Can only private persons participate?
No. A participation in the Generation Forest Co-op is equally possible for legal persons, e.g. for companies (for example as a CSR project), as for associations or foundations.
I am not registered as a resident in Germany. Can I nevertheless become a Waldmensch?
Yes. The membership is not linked to a German passport or your place of residence.
How many shares can I subscribe for?
Basically, there is no limit.
Can a membership request with the Cooperative be rejected as well?
In theory yes. According to German Cooperative Law, the Board of Directors must approve each individual membership application before shares can be subscribed. This helps to ensure that e.g. certain extremist groups can’t infiltrate the cooperative
How does the payment by installment model work?
We would like to enable as many people as possible to become part of the Generation Forest Co-op movement. Therefore, we offer to pay shares in monthly installments of 25, 50 or 100 Euros. Legally it is still the purchase of one share, but feels more like a club membership. And we appreciate that you would subscribe for another one after the last installment has been made.
Do I have to cancel the payment by installments once I don’t want to subscribe for further shares?
No. We only collect the installments for the purchase of one single share. A cancellation is not necessary. We will however, before the last installment is made, follow up with you, in case you are interested to subscribe for a further share.
How do I pay for the cooperative share?
You can transfer the amount or issue a SEPA direct debit mandate. The SEPA direct debit order is also the default method if you choose to pay by monthly installments.
I would like to buy a share for my (god-) child. Is that possible?
Yes. We have a separate form for purchasing shares for minors on our site. Here, for legal reasons, both parents have to sign. The payment can be made by you, even if you are not related to the (god-) child.
Are there any additional costs or charges?
No. Nonetheless, we are planning to adjust the price for future shares to the increase in value of our forests. This will happen through the introduction of a so-called entry fee which will be added to all future shares.
When will a surcharge (entry fee) be charged?
Probably as of 1 July 2018. The Cooperative’s General Assembly will decide on the exact numbers, but we estimate an annual surcharge of 2-3,5%.
Is there an annual membership fee?
No. An annual membership fee to cover certain costs, like for example introduced by the GLS Community Bank, which is organized as a cooperative, doesn’t exist in our case.
I would like to operate The Generation Forest Co-op sales professionally. What are my options?
We work with selected financial service providers who fit with our vision and have the appropriate financial advisor certification. If you are interested, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Is the purchase of a cooperative share a capital investment?
Yes. This is an asset value-investment. With the purchase of cooperative shares, you acquire land shares as well as shares of the forest lands of the cooperative collectively, which belong to us all together.
For which capital investors are the shares of the Generation Forest Co-op suitable?
We recommend the acquisition of cooperative shares of the Generation Forest Co-op as a green investment for all those who are looking for a double dividend from environmental impact and long-term asset growth, or transfer of assets to the next generation. As a financial investment, cooperative shares of the Generation Forest Co-op are interesting for those who want to manage a part of their portfolio with a steady hand instead of analyzing daily exchange rates and economic trends. Forests are largely decoupled from the turmoil of capital markets. They also have staying power. Should the wood prices be low, due to an oversupply, we have the possibility to let the trees grow for a longer time (in contrast to tightly timed plantation trees). Often the increase is the greatest in these late years anyway. Just as there is “slow food”, “slow travel” and “slow fashion”, we stand for “slow finance”. The long-windedness by no means excludes the sale of shares prematurely. Because no tree has to be cut for the sale of a share.
Are the cooperative shares interest-paying?
Cooperative shares do not have a fixed interest like a bond or a loan, but represent the equity of the company, comparable to a share in a joint stock company. With the increase in value of the forests, the cooperative share increases in value as well. The increase in value is represented by an annual increasing surcharge, so-called entry fee.
Are there any dividend payments?
Yes, but only at a later date, when we starting selling wood from our own forests. As we are planting permanent forests, there are regular distributions – theoretically unlimited forever.
What is the increase in value I can count on?
We estimate an average increase in value of 2-3.5% per year, which can be achieved by selling the shares. Our business plan, which has been audited by the German Cooperative Union for economic viability as well, provides for a roughly twice as high return. However, due to the uncertainties associated with the long-term nature, we intend to limit the surcharge through the entry fee to the above stated annual 2-3.5%. However, those who hold their shares in the long run, may, under certain circumstances, achieve correspondingly higher returns.
Where does the increase in value originate?
Our main source of income is selling native precious woods such as mahogany or rosewood, in individual cases also from teak of existing plantations, which we are transforming into Generation Forests. Also, it is likely that the land will increase in value; however, we are planning to keep our sites permanently.
What financial risks are associated with a participation in the Cooperation?
As with all entrepreneurial participations, a total loss is possible with a participation in our cooperative as well. However, the risk of a total loss in the participation with us is very low, as property values (land, forest) are opposed to the share. As long as the cooperative is still small, there is the risk of a diminished “asset building” as our fixed costs represent a percentage-wise bigger part. A reserve liability in the event of bankruptcy of the Generation Forest Co-op has been legally excluded in our statutes
How strong is the risk of pests, cyclones and other natural events in Panama?
Our forest areas lie outside the tropical cyclone zone. Storm damage and local tornadoes are nevertheless a danger, which, however, as a rule, cause very little damage and do not endanger interconnected forest areas. With our mixed forest concept, pests are a much smaller danger than in monocultures. The native tree species that we prefer are well adapted to the local soil and climate conditions. They are generally also more resistant to climate fluctuations than non-native species.
4. Business Plan
How strongly do currency risks affect the business model of the Cooperative?
In Panama, the US Dollar is the legal tender. We therefore have a currency risk that we consider to be lower than if we were working with a local currency. Most of our revenues will be generated on international markets, as we prefer to sell our quality woods on the European market, also in Euros.
Does the cooperative obtain income from the sale of CO2 certificates?
No, this is not expected. Therefore, the achieved CO2 savings will entirely benefit our members and we avoid double counting.
What are the administrative costs of the Cooperative?
We work with very slim structures. Our fixed costs during the founding year were less than € 5,000 a month for team, office, marketing & communications, legal etc.
Is the Cooperative benefiting from rising land prices?
In principle, yes. There is also a trend towards rising land prices in Panama. We expect our land to become more valuable over time as well. However, we do not intend to sell our land again, as we want to manage it permanently. In our business plan, we have thus assumed the value as constant.
Why don’t we simply lease the land?
The leasing of land is not an excluded possibility. However, due to the long-term nature of our project, the purchase of land is generally the more sensible alternative. Together with our local forestry partner, we also develop project concepts in which we could cooperate with third parties who create Generation Forests on their own land. These may be, for example, indigenous communities or cattle breeders. How we as Generation Forest Co-op can support this purposefully, is still to be determined.
What does the cooperative do with reserve assets for future years?
About half of the funds are needed for reserve assets for future expenditures, which are part of the cooperative share. These are partly invested on the capital market and partly used operationally to enlarge our forest areas. In the first 3-4 years, less reserve assets are created, since the fixed cost share is even higher here. The various factors are updated annually in our business planning.
Does the Generation Forest Co-op work exclusively in Panama?
We orient ourselves by the opportunities that we can develop together with our strategic partner Futuro Forestal. Panama is an ideal location because of the exceptionally high biodiversity of its (remaining) rainforests and the high investment security. However, we also examine opportunities in other Latin American countries for further expansion and possible diversification of the sites at a later date.
How does Generation Forest Co-op organize their operative work on site?
We have a strategic partnership with the company Futuro Forestal, which was the first B Corp-certified forestry company in Panama to develop the concept of Generation Forests, with over 20 years of work. We were able to convince the two founders, Andreas Eke and Iliana Armien to join the Board of Directors of Generation Forest Co-op. This ensures us access to the most suitable areas on site as well as short decision paths.
5. Rights and Obligations
Do all members have the same rights?
No. We distinguish between ordinary and investing members.
What is the difference between ordinary and investing members?
With a few exceptions, all members of the Generation Forest Co-op are investing members. Their shares are legally equivalent to the shares of ordinary members, but do not have the right to vote.
Why is there a distinction between voting and non-voting members?
We want to make sure that the cooperative will maintain its mission even for 50 or 100 years. For this reason, we only grant shares with voting rights very selectively. These include the founders of the Cooperative: more specifically all the members of the Board of Directors and the Supervisory Board, who have all subscribed for the shares too. Also, a few selected persons, who have been added specifically because of their expertise or networks. We plan to carefully develop the circle of voting (ordinary) members.
What rights do I have as an investing member?
Investing members have almost the same rights as ordinary members. Financially they are equals; the same information and participation rights apply, as well as the right to participate and speak at the general meeting. However, voting at the general meeting is reserved for the circle of ordinary members.
Why did you choose the cooperative as legal form?
A cooperative is in fact a particularly long-lasting, soundly regulated through the Cooperative Union (in Germany), and overall transparent legal form. A cooperative is – unlike most clubs – a business enterprise, which is operatively active: it can manage their own forests and sell their own wood. The cooperative enables us to admit constantly new members through the issuing of new shares, without – as in a joint stock company – having to formally decide new capital increases in the group of shareholders.
How is the governance structure of the cooperative? Who decides on what? Who is elected by whom?
These questions are regulated in our statutes. The day-to-day business is carried out by the Board of Directors of the Cooperative. All questions of greater reach require the consent of the Supervisory Board. The Supervisory Board determines the Board of Directors; the general meeting elects the Supervisory Board. In our case, it applies the restriction that investment members have speech but no voting rights in the general meeting.
Do I have to go to a notary to subscribe for a share?
No. As with the purchase of shares in a joint stock company, the acquisition of cooperative shares is carried out without a notarial deed. The cooperative is legally obliged to keep a list of members and to document it neatly.
Will I get a certificate when I subscribe for a share?
Yes, we will send a PDF (or also in print) Waldmeister certificate, as well as the signed resolution of the Board of Directors to the share subscription.
Is the cooperative registered in the business register?
Yes. We are registered under the number 1083 in the cooperative register managed by the District Court Hamburg. The information is accessible for everyone at www.unternehmensregister.de
Who advises Generation Forest Co-op in fiscal/legal questions?
We have developed the structure of the Generation Forest Co-op closely with André Leprince, the managing director of the WLP audit firm in Hamburg, who has advocated for years for cooperatives as a successful legal form for social enterprises. The accounting and annual accounts are done by SOLITAX GmbH, which is specialized in cooperatives. The cooperative is audited by the registered Auditing Association of German Transport, Services and Consumer Cooperatives in Hamburg.
6. Sale and Termination of Membership
Can I re-sell my shares?
Yes. You are free to re-sell your shares. Additionally, we offer a special service that helps with mediation and execution. You can also cancel your membership. Your share will then be seized by the cooperative while you get a lawfully regulated credit balance. Please, take further notice of the additional details in the following FAQs. IN addition, it is also possible to gift or bequest shares.
How does selling shares through the cooperative work?
The easiest way of selling shares is through the secondary market facilitated by us. The cooperative will then overtake the mediation, as we know who would like to buy shares. Also, since we are going to charge an additional entry fee for every new share of 1200€ in the future, buying through our secondary market might be more attractive, if the offered share contains a lower entry fee. Especially since the prospective buyer knows that it is legally secure. There is a small administrative fee for the mediation process, but the transfer of shares to a new owner is completely cost free, same as if they were gifted or bequeathed.
Can I also use my cooperative shares to invest them charitably?
Yes. You can transfer the amount of money that you would like to invest in the form of a special external donation to the Good Impact Foundation (keyword: Foundation Waldmenschen). Since it’s a donation, it’s tax deductible. The foundation invests the capital in shares of our cooperation. All financial returns will be re-invested in new forests, meaning that with just one donation, reforested areas will multiply exponentially.
Can I sell shares directly to third parties?
You can sell shares in principle to any person or organization at the conditions freely negotiated by you. In this case, the cooperative must be informed about the planned change of ownership in order to update the list of members accordingly. Likewise, the Board of Directors must approve the transfer, as with any issue of shares.
How can I give away or bequeath shares?
The transfer of shares is not complicated. You just have to inform the cooperative about the transfer. There is a special form for this and there is no additional cost. The transfer is legally binding with the confirmation/approval of the Board of Directors. If shares are bequeathed to a community of heirs, the same must determine to whom the shares will be transferred. Otherwise the shares, like in the case of withdrawal, are returned to the cooperative and the community of heirs will be paid the legally regulated credit balance of the retiring member’s capital.
Can I cancel my membership of the cooperative?
Yes. When I have sold, given away or bequeathed all my shares, the membership expires automatically. Alternatively, I can cancel the membership. In that case the shares go back to the cooperative. The former member will receive a credit balance of the retiring member´s capital.
Can I also “cancel” individual shares?
Yes. It is possible to withdraw individual shares and return them to the cooperative. The membership in the cooperative is maintained as long as the member holds at least one business share.
How is the credit balance of the retiring member’s capital calculated?
The credit balance of the retiring member´s capital that is paid out upon the collection of shares, is calculated in accordance with the Cooperative Law (§73) and the statutes of the Generation Forest Co-op (§11). It is based on the profit for each last financial year. As a rule, the balance lies clearly below the real value of the shares, since it – to put it a little simply – does not consider the inventory value of the forests, but only the profits already realized through the sale of wood. The legislature has also ruled that, when redeeming shares, the member is not entitled to any reserves which can reach a significant amount in the case of forest investments. The legislature would like to protect the cooperative against payments which could put them into economic difficulties because of the lack of liquidity. It is to be assumed that a sale of shares on the secondary market secures higher proceeds.
Is the concept of the Generation Forest new?
Yes. The principle of sustainable forestry has been firmly established in Germany more than 200 years ago, but it is still largely unknown in the tropics. There are not forests, but wood plantations are planted, which are completely harvested after a certain time. With acacias, the rotation period is sometimes only 7 years, with eucalyptus usually 15 years, with Teak, as the most important tropical quality wood, between 20 and 25 years. With deforestation, the ecological functions that the plantation could have had, if any, are lost. The soils are emaciated by the monoculture and are usually no longer viable after 2-3 cycles.
Which areas do you want to afforest and until when?
Our goal is to have planted and financed 1,000 hectares Generation Forest by 2022. This corresponds to 20,000 cooperative shares. We therefore speak of the 20/22 Challenge.
What does a hectare of Generation Forest cost?
One hectare newly created permanent forest costs over the entire period until it is financially self-sustaining, and generates profits around € 24,000, including the administrative costs of the cooperative. The information is based on the long-term experience of our forestry partner on site as well as on a 100-year business plan developed within the framework of a scientific project with the University of Wageningen.
How are the costs distributed?
We calculate approx. 7,500 € for the land purchase, 2,500 € for the planting and care in the first year, 10.000 € for the care of the forests in the first 20 years (until break-even) as well as about 4,000 € expenses of the Generation Forest Co-op for the membership administration, marketing & communication, sales, project management, accounting and financial controlling. The numbers are approximations which exclude the scale effects (upwards and downwards) which are significant in the forestry sector.
How much forest has been planted by the Generation Forest Co-op so far?
Generation Forest Co-op has been registered in the Cooperative Register since November 2016. In order to possess our own forests as quickly as possible, we are successively taking over a 25-hectare teak plantation, which we will convert into a Generation Forest in the medium term. Thus, 3-4 ha of rosewood were replenished in the shade of the teak trees. We started the transaction in Q2 2016.
What kind of areas do we manage?
We are specifically looking for areas that have been cut down for cattle breeding a few decades ago and which run the risk to deteriorate due to rural exodus. In many cases these areas are no longer viable for livestock farming, but they are well suited for native quality wood. In individual cases, we also take over existing plantations, which we transform into a long-term sustainable form by replenishing native quality woods in the second and third generation before the plantation wood is harvested and sold.
How do I recognize that the business plan was calculated conservatively?
In the business plan, we have omitted a lot of what would push the returns on the paper massively upwards. Thus, we proceed from constant wood and land prices. We want to show that our business model is not dependent on rising prices, even though the trend of the last 20 years has clearly shown that both tropical timber and in particular land prices, have risen significantly in the long-term trend. We also ignored inflation in the financial model. Perhaps at first sight seems surprising. If we had simulated rising prices, the calculated return would rise significantly, because we have the largest share of costs in the early years (still without inflation) and achieve most of the returns highly staggered, with prices pushed upwards by inflation.
Is there a market for rare tropical woods such as rosewood (Cocobolo), American mahogany (Caoba) or gold cedar (Amarillo)?
It concerns niche markets. We do not know any supplier worldwide, who cultivates, for example, the slowly growing, very valuable rosewood itself. So far, the wood is almost exclusively obtained from natural forest management, which endangers the stock in the long term. In our financial planning, we assume that native species will achieve similar prices as other, often traded species, such as teak. We also believe that the traceability of the wood we offer will become increasingly important in the future, which will be reflected in the medium term in the price.
What do you understand by your model of the Generation Forest?
By this we mean man-made, silviculturally used, tropical mixed forests, where trees of several age groups (“generations”) co-exist, so that at the timber harvesting, the next generation of trees has already been replenished. This creates a tropical permanent forest that regenerates the soil, the hydrological structure and the biodiversity. The fact that we mix different fast-growing species means that the harvesting time of the individual tree rows is different, which further increases the generational diversity.
Is a Generation Forest a reproduction of a natural forest?
The Generation Forest resembles a natural forest in many ways. It is mostly or completely populated by native species and assumes the same ecological functions (habitat for animals and plants, water storage, humus formation, etc). It differs in the respect that – in contrast to natural forests – we plant a drastically higher density of quality woods and we care silviculturally for the forest. Thus, there are between 500 and 1100 precious woods on a hectare of Generation Forest, depending on the level of thinning. In a natural forest there are often only one or two trees per hectare, which are classified as marketable precious wood.
Do you exclusively plant native species?
In principle yes. Our unique characteristic is the extensive forestry know-how of local precious wood species such as Caoba (American Mahogany), Amarillo (Gold Cedar), Cocobolo (Rosewood), Zapatero (Bully Tree), Cedro Real (Spanish Cedar, Nispero (Loquat), Jacaranda as well as many other species, which have so far, no English or German name designations such as Cedro macho, Almendro, Roble de Sabana, Cedro espino, Quiro or Cedro Maria. We reserve the right to take over existing plantations, which are almost 100% not stocked with native species and to gradually convert them into a Generation Forest, which is to be planted with local quality wood. In this context, it can be useful in individual cases to replenish sp cificareas with tropical species, such as teak, according to the “best-use” principle. But this is not the rule.
Are ecological protection zones planned?
Yes. Even though our Generation Forest itself already assumes extensive ecological protection functions, we will create further areas, which we leave as a protective area to a natural regeneration, so that a secondary natural forest develops. This is particularly useful in sensitive areas such as river courses or in places that are relevant for biotope cross-linking. We also examine the extent to which we can re-densify existing, frequently degraded, secondary forests, by using native quality woods, and thus transform them into an ecologically and economically sustainable form of utilization, which ensures permanent preservation of the land.
Can a Generation Forest recover lost biodiversity?
Yes. This question was part of an extensive scientific study, that was made 2015/2016 and which compared Teak plantations and Generation Forests with regard to their ecological impact. More information on this can be found in our “Download Center” page.
Are our forests in competition with food production?
No. We plant forests where livestock production is as a rule no longer, or in the foreseeable future, economically viable. Many pastures are free because they are no longer economically viable. There are, therefore, in Panama (and in the tropics as a whole), very large areas of average soil quality, which are not at all suitable for agriculture and hardly suitable for livestock production, but where native tree species are growing well.
I want to make my life CO2-neutral? How many shares do I need for this?
It depends on your personal lifestyle. If you already live very ecologically, half a hectare of forest should be enough. This corresponds to 10 cooperative shares. The forest on this area binds about 7 tons CO2 per year. And this again every year. Whoever lives less aware of the climate, should be on the safe side with one hectare of forest. This is equivalent to 20 cooperative shares and about 14 tons of CO2, which are newly tied up annually. The average is currently just under 10 tons of CO2 emission per person in Germany.
How can I as a company use a Generation Forest Co-op membership?
We specifically would like to win over companies as partners of Generation Forest Co-op, and offer for this purpose various possibilities to shape the membership as a corporate social responsibility project. Thus, areas of production sites, offices or footprints of the sold products can be “mirrored” as a Generational Forest. A share equates to about an area of 500m2. There are also numerous possibilities for CO2 compensation. Not through a donation to a CO2 offset program, but in the form of an investment in tropical permanent forests, which bind about 14 tons of CO2 per hectare annually, every year anew.
Is the purchase of land in Panama through a German cooperative not "land grapping"?
No. We do not buy land that is actively used by local communities, or where – as indigenous protected areas – traditional customary rights exist. We mainly buy land that has been cleared for cattle breeding several decades ago, but because of the decreasing sustainability of the soils, it is in danger of decaying in the medium term. Generally, these are areas are sol, because their owners can’t work on them any longer in an economically viable way (and many of the agricultural workers have long since moved into the city, where jobs are in demand due to high economic growth). In individual cases, we also buy existing plantations stocked with wood, which we transform into a Generation Forest.
The Generation Forest Co-op show how another way of managing is possible. What is meant by this?
We will show the enormous challenges that mankind can solve entrepreneurially, if the planning horizon of three months (quarterly reporting obligation of market-listed companies) or 5-7 years (duration of the majority of investment offers on the capital market) is increased to 30, 60 or 100 years. Our forests have a value growth, which can compete with many other investment possibilities. But this increase in value is implemented in part much delayed. Who invests value-oriented (in the double sense of the word “values”) has come to the right place. Who wants to gamble on the capital market, has come to the wrong one.
I would like to work for the Generation Forest Co-op. Are there open jobs?
We welcome any form of pro bono support. We post open jobs on our website or Facebook page.