In Ukraine, Preferred by Nature’s auditors are continuing their valuable work. “This is also a way of fighting the war,” says Leonid Lunachevski, who lives with his family in Kharkiv, near the Russian border.
“Since September, the Russians have mostly attacked Kharkiv with S300 rockets. They use them to take out infrastructure such as electricity and water works. It only happens every second week, but the S300s fall in clusters of six rockets at a time.”
Leonid Lunachevski, a 37-year-old auditor working for Preferred by Nature, has only a short run from his home office to the bomb shelter: a reality that has become part of his everyday life as an auditor in war-torn Ukraine.
While we meet Leonid in Lviv, near the Polish border, his hometown Kharkiv, 1,000 kilometres away, is once again being hit with a barrage of S300 rockets.
“Here in western Ukraine, most people can now live a fairly normal life,” he reflects, while we talk in a cafe in central Lviv.
In front of Lviv Town Hall, large posters with the faces of men the same young age as Leonid killed in battle only a few days earlier provide a grave contrast to the quaint cobblestoned streets, bars and tourist shops.
When Russian forces attacked Kharkiv in February 2022, Leonid and his wife Natalia were visiting Kiev, 500 km away, having left their daughter Daria at home with her grandparents.
“We told her to pack all our documents, charge the mobile phones and go to the shelter as fast as possible,” says Leonid Lunachevski.
While many were trying to escape Kharkiv and the advancing Russian tanks, Leonid and his wife had to travel hundreds of kilometres in the opposite direction to get to their daughter.
“Of course I was afraid,” says Leonid. Luckily, the family was eventually reunited.
Auditing near the frontline
In his work as an auditor for Preferred by Nature, Leonid is covering huge areas and travelling long distances to reach clients. With nearly half of its 9.7 million hectares of forest certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Ukraine has one of the most sustainably managed forest sectors in Europe. Two million hectares are audited by Leonid and his Preferred by Nature colleagues.
“Before the Russians were pushed back from Kharkiv, it was almost impossible to work - travel was, of course, restricted, and electricity, internet and phone lines were constantly disrupted. Now, we can go almost anywhere,” says Leonid Lunachevski.
Although the frontline has been pushed back, many areas remain polluted with explosives, including landmines. Some 3 million hectares of forest have been impacted by the war and 600,000 hectares of forest have been marked as a danger zone on the government map that auditors use for guidance.
“We sometimes carry out risk assessments before going into certain areas, which are close to these zones,” says Leonid, and laughs. Fortunately, he has not had to wear a helmet and bulletproof vest on the job yet.
While sustainability and the condition of forestry might seem the least of the worries in a country under attack, Leonid still believes his work as an auditor has value:
“We help create economic stability. When this is over, Ukraine will need all the business it can get to recover, including income from sustainably managed forests. This is also a way of fighting the war.”
Top photo courtesy of Ukraine Defence Ministry
Read more: Dreaming of a Green Ukraine