What small and solo business owners need to know about tree planting initiatives

Planting trees is a popular way for businesses to show off their green credentials, which isn’t surprising considering that it’s:

  • easy to connect to your business. Businesses can, say, plant a tree for every new customer or every product sold.
  • easy to set up. There is no shortage of tree planting programs to choose from these days.
  • easy to ‘sell’ as part of your sustainability initiatives. I mean, who doesn’t like trees?

But just because something is easy, doesn’t make it a good choice.

Tree planting schemes are coming under increasing scrutiny. And for good reasons. There are serious and legitimate concerns about their effectiveness and long-term management, their negative impact on biodiversity and local and indigenous people, and their role in greenwashing.

This doesn’t mean we should abandon tree planting completely. Trees ARE good. They purify our air, provide food and habitat for wildlife, prevent soil erosion—and, yes, they absorb carbon dioxide.

If you want to include tree planting as one part of your company’s carbon reduction strategy, make sure you:

  • reduce your carbon emissions. That’s the priority. Offsetting is not a free pass for inaction.
  • choose more immediate offsetting solutions. Trees take a good 10+ years before they’re effective at absorbing carbon dioxide. We need climate action now.
  • choose your tree planting partner carefully. Look for reputable ones with third-party certification.

Responsible tree planting can be a part of your company’s sustainability initiatives, but it shouldn’t be the focus—just as carbon offsets shouldn’t be. Make sure you’re realistic about the impact and limitations of tree planting and other carbon offset programs.

Build a better business

Better for the environment, better for people and—yup—better for your pocket.

Every week, I put together a collection of practical and thought-provoking resources designed to help us grow our impact as small and solo business owners. 

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