In recent times, we've seen a gradual shift in corporate attitudes away from the naked profit-making motives towards a more socially conscious approach. Brands both big and small, aware that the millennial generation of consumers are wanting more from companies than just the best-priced or the best quality goods and services, are investing more in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approaches.
One Tree Planted has stepped into this environment with the aim of making a difference by tapping into both changing consumer and corporate attitudes. This 501(c)(3) charity, founded by Matt Hill, was set up in Vermont in 2014 to help with global reforestation efforts. The charity works with individuals, businesses schools and partner organizations to raise money for tree planting across the world. Using the slogan “One dollar, one tree”, it has helped projects in North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Matt's interest in helping businesses to become more environmentally sustainable was piqued during his time working for sustainable food packaging manufacturer Eco Products. He found that Sustainability Directors at many businesses were looking for more direct avenues to help with environmental sustainability projects.
“I found that people were wishing they could do more for the environment, but they wondered what percentage of the donations were actually going to the cause. They also wanted to do the help themselves” he explains.
So Matt decided to found his own charity to provide a way for both businesses and individuals to get more directly involved in a tangible way through tree planting.
“Most people just don't realize how important trees are to the environment” says Matt. “They sequester carbon from the atmosphere, clean the air, supply clean water and provide habitats for 80% of species on the planet.”
Through One Tree Planted, donors can see exactly what difference their contributions are making.
“One Tree Planted provides an easy way – which I call sustainability made simple – to do something that gives you a tangible result” says Matt. “If a company gives us $2,000 to plant 2,000 trees in Colorado, they know exactly what the donation went to.”
Contributors are able to choose which tree planting projects their donations assist. There are also volunteering opportunities in places such as Indonesia and Brazil for those that want to take their involvement to the next level.
The decision to focus the charity on trees is down to two reasons. Firstly, due to the importance of trees to our existence. Trees remove pollutants from the air, help control the water cycle, protect biodiversity, provide ingredients for key medicines and suck in harmful greenhouse gases to prevent global warming.
Secondly, because the current rate of deforestation is having potentially devastating effects on our planet. 80% of the world's forests have already been destroyed and a staggering 80,000 acres of forests disappear every day. By destroying the world's supply of trees, we exacerbate the effects of global warming.
One Tree Planted works both close to home in the US as well as abroad with partner organizations that are carefully vetted to ensure that money from donations is not wasted. Through fundraising projects and a fundraising website (which has raised over $287,000 to date), donations are pooled and then given to reforestation partners on a quarterly basis. Follow-up monitoring of projects is also carried out to ensure that a minimum of 80% of trees planted through the projects survive.
The charity provides various different avenues for public participation in projects:
- Individuals – can make a simple donation, organize their own fundraiser, become a “tree ambassador” and raise awareness about the importance of reforestation in their community, or volunteer on projects at home or abroad.
- Businesses – can donate a percentage of their profits, get employees involved in tree planting sessions, or become official partners helping to deliver reforestation projects. Big company involvement includes Unilever, a consistently high-performing brand in terms of environmental sustainability, who is helping to plant 250,000 trees in the Amazon.
- Schools – can use resources to educate and raise awareness in the classroom as well as get students involved in local reforestation projects.
Businesses can also get involved with the charity's Million Tree Challenge initiative, where 500 companies will each sponsor the planting of 2,000 trees each to help California recover from record-breaking wildfires in 2017.
Climate scientists have stated that reforestation is one of the key ways that our planet might be able to avoid the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change if we don't take sufficient action. In that sense, One Tree Planted is carrying out potentially life-saving work.
“A few trees may not sound like much, but over time we're restoring a lot of degraded land and creating healthy forests around the world” says Matt. “Those forests benefit people, biodiversity and the climate. That's powerful.”