Washington, D.C. and Ottawa, ON—The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) announced Bettina Ring as its new Chief Sustainability and Diversity Officer today. Ring will provide leadership internally and externally on strategic initiatives related to sustainability and diversity. She will also seek to leverage SFI’s scale to drive meaningful change in the forest and conservation sector through collaboration with SFI’s network.
Ring has deep connections to the forest sector, most recently serving as Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and to SFI, having formerly served on the SFI Board of Directors and recognized as the SFI President’s Award winner in 2018. Additionally, under Ring’s leadership, 68,000 acres of Virginia’s state forests were certified to the SFI Forest Management and American Tree Farm System Standards, which provide assurance of sustainable practices on managed forestlands.
Working closely with the entire SFI Leadership Team and reporting to the President and CEO, Ring will elevate and scale the sustainability contributions of SFI’s standards, conservation, community, and education pillars. Ring will work with the entire SFI staff and engaged network partners to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into SFI’s operations, programs, and partnerships. Ring will also collaborate with SFI-certified organizations, customers, investors, and government agencies interested in partnering with SFI to address material environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues.
“I am honored to be joining SFI under the leadership of Kathy Abusow,” Ring said. “I look forward to working with SFI’s dynamic and talented team to help scale their efforts to create healthier forests and more resilient communities across the United States and Canada.”
Ring has been serving as the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry for the Commonwealth of Virginia since 2018. She helped build a strong Virginia economy in agriculture and forestry, Virginia’s first and third largest private industries, while also protecting the environment. Prior to her appointment as Secretary, Ring served as the seventh State Forester of the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). Ring was the first woman appointed to both positions.
Under Ring’s leadership as Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, the VDOF made deep commitments to conservation including establishing the largest conservation easement ever recorded in the Commonwealth of Virginia, totaling more than 22,000 acres, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy.
Ring’s work in Virginia has had deep social connections. She worked with the Black Family Land Trust, Virginia Bar Association, members of the Virginia United Land Trusts, and the Uniform Law Commission, in the unanimous passage of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act legislation. Provisions of this Act help Virginia families—especially minority and low income—to protect and keep inherited land, maintain generational wealth, and conserve working landscapes.
Ring has been instrumental in Virginia’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. She worked in partnership with the University of Virginia’s Institute for Engagement & Negotiation to hold the first Governor’s Summit on Equitable Collaboration, engaging over 1,000 participants and subject matter experts in policy discussions around how to make Virginia more equitable and inclusive and incorporate equitable collaboration into their own work.
“Bettina is an extraordinary leader with experience in forest certification, conservation collaboration, community engagement, and environmental education, including Project Learning Tree. She is passionate and experienced at advancing sustainability through forest-focused collaboration, which is SFI’s mission,” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI.
“Bettina will work with our team and network to deliver on SFI’s commitment to building a future in which all communities value and benefit from sustainably managed forests. Forest-focused sustainability that effectively balances environmental, economic, and social values can only be achieved through relationships and collaboration that build mutual trust and respect the lived experiences and self-determination of the communities in which we live, work, and serve. As a forest sector leader with an extensive network, SFI’s actions and leadership can make a positive and long-lasting difference toward creating a more equitable and inclusive future for all. Building upon our existing initiatives aimed at addressing underrepresentation, including that of Indigenous, African American, Francophone, Latino, and urban communities within the forest and conservation sector, Bettina will lead the implementation of tangible action and continuous improvement that embeds diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within our organization, across our standards, conservation, community and education pillars, and throughout our network,” Abusow said.
A Virginia native, Ring began her career with VDOF and held a number of leadership positions in addition to State Forester, including Deputy Forester and the agency’s first Chief of Urban and Community Forestry, during her 18 years with the agency. Ring became a Project Learning Tree (PLT) Facilitator while serving as a young area forester and later, while serving as Deputy State Forester, elevated the state’s PLT program by hiring the agency’s first Project Learning Tree Coordinator. While serving on the SFI Board of Directors, Ring also served on the newly established PLT Canada Board of Directors.
Ring served as Senior Vice President of Family Forests at the American Forest Foundation, a position responsible for overseeing the American Tree Farm System—the largest and oldest sustainable woodland program in America—prior to serving as State Forester. She served as Executive Director of the Bay Area Open Space Council in the San Francisco Bay Region, and helped complete the Conservation Lands Network, a science-based study by over 100 organizations that identified lands essential to the protection of the region’s natural infrastructure. She also served as executive director of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts where she advanced land and water conservation in partnership with public, private, and nonprofit partners.
Ring holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Forestry and Wildlife from Virginia Tech and a Masters of Business Administration from James Madison University. Ring also graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program. Her role with SFI will officially begin on February 15, 2022. She will be based out of the Washington, D.C. office, while working and residing with her family in Charlottesville, Virginia.