Time for the third and final piece of our Tree Planting 101 blog series. We went over the basics, the controversies, learned more about WEARTH, and now we’re ready for the action – how you can get involved! We welcome again the expertise of WEARTH co-founder and third generation farmer, Brad Rabiey.
So, let’s get right to it so we can work together to build a plan for our future.
How much impact could be made if more companies took part in tree planting programs?
As discussed in the previous blog, with estimated space in the world for one trillion trees to be planted the demand for trees hasn’t been met by the supply and interest of companies and individuals.
“I think the need out there is so much greater than the support right now. The current need does not match the corporate desire at this point to do these initiatives so there’s still a lot of room to match it.
And a lot of that comes down to the long term look at things especially when it comes to the carbon component, it’s not instantaneous. A lot of the project costs are in the first few years so there’s the dissociation right now between how the project appears in the beginning versus what people think they’re putting money towards (the bigger picture of the tall trees and forest in the long term). When we send pictures to someone and the project is 3 years old and the trees are only up to their knees, it doesn’t look like a lot for the amount of money that has been put towards it. But it’s the viewpoint here that it’s not instantaneous and that we want people to grasp onto this idea of their money being an investment that grows, literally.”
- Brad Rabiey, WEARTH Co-Founder
So while it’s hard to put an exact number as to how many trees could be achieved if more companies took part, there’s obvious room for more companies to come onboard.
Fact or myth:
Tree planting and CSR is only for the big players
When we, Black Sheep, first started looking for companies and organizations to work with to start our tree planting program, we were met by an unexpected roadblock. We knew that tree planting was something that many big companies took part in, but we were surprised to see how hard it is for a smaller company to take part. We were met with disappointment as many companies would not even consider our interest because we could not meet the minimum tree requirements. We think that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is something that many people see to be a ‘luxury’ that only big companies can take part in, but does this have to be the case?
WEARTH sells trees by each individual seedling. No minimum spend or quantities and available for everyone and anyone (you can purchase a tree on our website to be planted with WEARTH). In 2019, the Government of Canada reported that 97.9% of businesses were small businesses, 1.9% were medium sized businesses and only 0.2% were large corporations. Looking at these numbers, if tree planting programs were more available and had lower barriers to entry, maybe we could all be more involved and CSR wouldn’t be thought of as a thing for big companies.
“For smaller organizations, sustainability initiatives become an additional responsibility for someone doing 20 other things already. Many of them don’t have the capacity to have a sustainability officer within the organization and that can be hard as it can be seen as an additional cost instead of being a necessary component. With the pandemic, we lost a lot of clients, particularly in the hospitality industry, that couldn’t keep planting, which is understandable. It is unfortunate though that one of the first things dropped are environmental programs.”
As Brad mentions, environmental and sustainability programs are still seen by many to be a supplementary and even charitable gesture by companies, but as we have learned, we need more small and medium sized players to get involved in building this into their main company values in order for us to meet our environmental goals.
How can we effectively propose environmental programs to employers?
The power of the masses can be very strong, so what can we do to try to initiate sustainability programs within our workplace?
“I think there are a few ways of approaching this topic. Firstly, from my perspective, incorporating it as part of the culture. It’s not an individual person’s responsibility but to build it into the ethos of the company and drive it from there. Secondly, tying it into the bottom line, because at the end of the day that is what is important for businesses. Whether that’s a marketing component or an incentivizing benefit. For example, switching to e-billing, not only does it cut down on the use of paper, but it’ll also save the company money. For the marketing component, it opens conversation with your customers and can help bring more interaction with the brand. The reality of this is that you can’t just keep adding costs to an area even if they are with good intentions, you have to offset them with something else financially.”
To convince the business, you have to sometimes speak their language. Sustainability initiatives are very sought after by consumers right now, but it doesn’t mean that companies can be convinced to take part if it doesn’t benefit them in one way or another. Done right, there is a great opportunity for a win-win situation for everyone; the company benefits in some way but the sustainability cause is also mutually supported. As we discussed earlier with the issues with some of these programs, it’s a fine balance and needs to be done responsibly.
As individuals, what can we do, starting today, to help support these causes?
“Not everyone has the access to plant their own trees, so that’s where we believe we come in. Our role in this space is to give people the opportunity to do that and in a way that is holistic. The other thing is to vote with your dollars. We all need a certain level of products to live, but we can be wise with these decisions. Support what you want to see, something that lasts and doesn’t have negative environmental and social consequences. That’s what I try to instill with my kids.”
Being aware of the impact of your small purchases and decisions is a great start to supporting the greater cause. Though it doesn’t seem like much, if more of us become more cognizant of the impact, collectively we can move mountains.
The next step for WEARTH
“Socially, we’re working diligently to create some Indigenous relationships that will bring a reconciliation component into what we do. We find arrowheads on the land we farm. There’s a historical story there that is one of loss for the Indigenous population and I think that needs to be addressed with what we do. From a business standpoint, we’re focusing on the scaling component. We are looking at ways that we can finance planting projects upfront in a way that will be more palatable for investors and agreements from the results of the program. Because it takes time for the benefits to be realized in tree planting, whether it’s certain wildlife species returning or carbon being stored from a climate perspective, we’d like to make a difference much faster and plant as many trees as quickly as possible.”
Side story from WEARTH:
“We all eat from the same garden”
“When I was growing up on the farm, we had a garden for us and then we had the big fields for the grains we would sell. In our garden, we didn’t use any artificial fertilizers, had really good soil management and things. Our dad wouldn’t even spray the grass anywhere near that area. But on the fields that we were producing on a large scale for other people, we did all those things! When my wife and I agreed to take over the farm that was one of the first conversations we had with my dad. If I'm going to grow something to feed someone else and their family, I’d also like it to be food that I would eat, because it’s all the same garden. Whatever you’re doing, just remember that we’re all interconnected and that all of our choices, even if it’s not directly impacting what’s happening to you, so you want to be mindful.”
We hope that everyone enjoyed our tree planting trilogy and that you're all a little more versed on these programs.
Graduating from the University of Alberta majoring in biological sciences, Brad worked in the provincial government, as a renewable energy consultant, and more before returning back to the family farm.
Brad's focus is on the triple bottom line of people, plant, and profit. Co-founding WEARTH (originally only The Carbon Farmer) in 2007 with his wife, they welcomed investment from Arlene Dickinson and Bruce Croxon via CBC's Dragons' Den. WEARTH is focused on planting trees on select parcels of previously farmed land. These new forests are helping address the major environmental issues today's world faces such as habitat loss and climate change. He's also transitioned the best agricultural soils on their third generation family farm (in the places other than the spots where they planted trees) to organic grain production, with a focus on gluten-free crops.