Features

Ricky Fong – Terraformation 

Driving environmental innovation 

Ricky Fong, the general counsel at Terraformation, is important in advancing the company’s mission of reforesting the planet to enhance its carbon capture capacity. While forestry experts and operators focus on assessing sites and developing biodiverse native forests, Fong oversees the legal aspects, ensuring compliance and facilitating partnerships across Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia. 

Ricky Fong | General Counsel | Terraformation 

Ricky Fong | General Counsel | Terraformation

Approaching his third anniversary with Terraformation, Fong navigates complex legal challenges associated with international expansion and jurisdictional nuances. Leveraging his expertise in finance and business, he adopts a Silicon Valley approach, establishing robust processes and crafting a wide range of legal contracts to facilitate the company’s growth and collaboration with forestry partners in regions where legal landscapes are unfamiliar to American businesses. 

“I’m proud to ensure that Terraformation’s efforts to reforest the planet are legally sound. I handle legal matters and help us grow internationally. With innovative solutions, we’re making a difference globally,” Fong says. 

Reforestation efforts  

One of the projects Fong is involved in is Terraformation’s accelerator program, which partners with forestry teams and landowners in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia. Through this program, Terraformation aims to scale up forest development efforts by providing technical expertise, financial support, and resources to local partners. Fong’s role in this project entails navigating complex legal issues across different jurisdictions, ensuring compliance with regulations, and structuring partnerships that benefit Terraformation and its local collaborators. 

Ricky Fong | General Counsel | Terraformation 

As part of the accelerator program, Fong is actively spearheading forest development projects in Indonesia and the Philippines. These projects represent a significant expansion of Terraformation’s reforestation efforts and require meticulous legal due diligence and contract structuring. Fong and his team work closely with local stakeholders to negotiate agreements that align with Terraformation’s values while respecting local communities’ and landowners’ rights and interests. 

“Laws are rapidly changing in carbon offset disclosures and carbon credit markets. Our contracts, like the trees we plant, need to include provisions that will withstand the test of time and ensure different stakeholders, including the communities, are properly incentivized to preserve our forests in the long run,” Fong says.  

Fong is leading efforts to enhance Terraformation’s compliance programs as the company grows and expands globally. This includes developing robust frameworks for regulatory compliance, risk management, and corporate governance. Fong’s legal expertise is instrumental in navigating the complex regulatory environment in different countries and ensuring that Terraformation operates ethically and transparently in all its endeavors. 

Fong’s involvement in these projects underscores his commitment to advancing Terraformation’s goal of reforesting the planet and combating climate change.  

“The legal department is playing a crucial role in driving forward initiatives that positively impact the environment and communities around the world,” Fong says.  

Leading with purpose 

Leading by example, Fong champions Terraformation’s internal and external mission, instilling a sense of purpose and passion within the team. He encourages innovation and creativity while emphasizing the importance of ethical conduct and responsible stewardship of the environment. Under Fong’s guidance, the legal team at Terraformation operates with integrity and dedication, ensuring that the company’s initiatives follow the highest legal and ethical standards. 

Ricky Fong | General Counsel | Terraformation 

Regarding risk management, Fong takes a proactive approach to identify and mitigate potential risks associated with Terraformation’s projects. Leveraging his legal expertise and strategic mindset, he conducts thorough assessments of legal and regulatory risks, implementing robust frameworks and protocols to safeguard the company’s interests.  

“By staying ahead of potential issues, we enable Terraformation to navigate complex legal landscapes with confidence and resilience,” Fong says.  

Fong’s leadership extends beyond the legal world, encompassing team building and collaboration. He fosters a culture of inclusivity, respect, and mutual support, encouraging open communication and idea-sharing among team members. By nurturing a positive and empowering work environment, Fong ensures that the legal team at Terraformation operates cohesively and efficiently, driving the company’s mission forward with passion and dedication. 

“I recognize the urgency and importance of combating climate change, and I view Terraformation’s work as a crucial contribution to addressing one of the most pressing challenges of our time,” he says.   

Understanding that reforestation plays a vital role in mitigating the impacts of climate change, enhancing biodiversity, and preserving ecosystems for future generations, Fong leads Terraformation’s legal efforts with a sense of purpose and determination, fully committed to advancing the company’s mission and making a meaningful difference in the world. 

Passion for law 

Fong’s journey into law was sparked by his upbringing as the child of entrepreneurial parents, who instilled in him an early appreciation for the role of attorneys in overcoming legal and business challenges. Growing up in Vancouver, Fong’s curiosity about business operations merged with his fascination for the legal intricacies. This childhood exposure laid the groundwork for his academic pursuits, leading him to earn a business degree from Washington University in St. Louis, followed by a J.D. from its law school. 

With his academic foundation in place, Fong embarked on a dynamic career path encompassing private practice and corporate roles. Over seven years, he honed his legal skills at prestigious firms like Paul, Weiss Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Latham & Watkins, and Debevoise & Plimpton, gaining invaluable experience across diverse legal domains. His international counsel position at Tenneco broadened his perspective on cross-border legal and business matters, setting the stage for leadership roles at the BlackPine Group and Oriente, where he served as general counsel. 

In April 2021, Fong joined Terraformation to build its legal function, bringing his wealth of experience and legal acumen to the climate tech space. His journey reflects a commitment to legal excellence and a passion for supporting businesses navigating unpredictable legal landscapes. 

“The unprecedented undertaking to reforest our world captures a core value of Terraformation—start the impossible. Lawyers definitely can help make the impossible a little more possible,” Fong says. 

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring II 2024 Edition here.

Published on: April 9, 2024

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