Guide: Planting Trees As a Company

Not all tree planting helps the environment. If done carelessly, it can do more harm than good. In this guide, you’ll learn what you need to know about planting trees as a company to contribute to a greener future.

Who should read this?

  • Business owners looking to plant trees: You’ll learn what to watch out for and where to begin.
  • Anyone interested in the sustainability of planting trees: This guide will give you a good vantage point to explore the topic.

“We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.” – Barack Obama

1. How to avoid using trees for greenwashing

Why do you want to plant trees? To combat climate change? To embrace social responsibility? To enhance your public image?

Whatever your motives, understand that planting trees is just one component of a sustainability strategy. It is not a miracle cure.

If planting trees is your strategy’s only component, you have no strategy.

To become more sustainable as a company, examine all your business areas. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Carbon footprint: Measuring your company’s carbon footprint to understand how much CO2 you need to compensate for. This article covers the basics.

  • Energy efficiency: Reducing your carbon footprint using energy-efficient technologies (like sustainable websites) and renewable energy sources.

  • Waste reduction: Minimizing waste in all business fields, promoting recycling, and helping to create a circular economy.

  • Supply chains: Choosing eco-friendly suppliers, promoting fair labor practices, and adopting responsible sourcing policies.

  • Product innovation: Creating sustainable products and services that reduce your environmental footprint.

  • Employee engagement: Encouraging a sustainability mindset can help individuals to make environmentally conscious decisions in their personal and professional lives.

If you advertise your tree-planting efforts while your products and services contribute to climate change (like big oil companies), that’s greenwashing.

A genuinely sustainable brand will show its commitment to the planet’s welfare in all its areas, not just by supporting tree-planting initiatives.


Planting trees is just one element in an overarching sustainability strategy.

2. The benefits and pitfalls of planting trees

Trees are natural allies against global warming. They absorb a net 7.6 billion metric tonnes of CO2 per year. That is triple the annual emissions of the European Union.

However, trees do not absorb CO2 instantly, but gradually over their lifetime. Planting 100 trees now will not cool the climate for decades to come.

That’s why it is vital to plant trees and reduce greenhouse gases.

In this section, you’ll learn: 

2.1   Benefits of planting trees as a company

Here are four reasons why planting trees can be beneficial for companies: 

  • Environmental Sustainability:  Trees improve air quality and balance greenhouse gases. By planting trees, you reduce your carbon footprint.

  • Corporate Responsibility: Investing in trees can be an impactful way to give back to society and promote environmental welfare.

  • Brand Integrity: If sustainability is one of your brand values, you better put your money where your mouth is. Show consumers that you’re trustworthy and care for more than profits.

  • Company Longevity: The effects of climate change will shake up the global economy. Taking climate action now benefits your company’s long-term survival.

In the past decade, countless initiatives have sprouted up to plant millions and billions of trees. While that’s a great idea, the initiatives often fall short.


Planting trees can help both the environment and your brand as a whole.

2.2   When planting trees fails

Planting trees without considering the local conditions can lead to high sapling mortality rates and other issues. Here are a few examples:

  • Turkey: In November 2019, Turkey planted 11 million trees in one day. After five months, 90 percent of the saplings had died due to a lack of rainfall, as the Guardian reported.

  • South Africa: Non-native trees were introduced to South Africa for timber and paper production. The area now faces a water supply crisis, with the trees “stealing “55 billion liters of water each year from Cape Town’s dwindling supply.

  • United Kingdom: A project to plant 6,000 trees in Norfolk, UK, saw almost all trees dying. Experts say the initiative planted the trees at the wrong time of year and on species- rich grassland that was already carbon negative.


Scientists and researchers are better at planting trees than politicians or business people

2.3   The challenges of restoration

Reforestation means planting trees where forests have been cut down or destroyed. It is a step towards restoring ecosystems, but it comes with its own set of challenges:

  • Long-term survival: Forests need decades to mature before providing environmental benefits like sequestering carbon, creating habitats, and filtering water.

  • Lack of diversity: Reforestation projects often plant monocultures of quick-growing trees to harvest timber. But biodiversity is vital for improving ecosystem function and resilience.

  •  The causes remain: Planting new trees doesn’t uproot drivers of deforestation like land use policies, economic incentives, and demand for products that contribute to deforestation.

  • Misleading claims: While a million trees planted is a great catchline, it suggests that quantity is what counts. But that is a poor measure of success.

The impact these trees have is much more important. Will they live for 20+ years? Do they contribute to healthy biodiversity, local cultures, wildlife, and soil?

Don’t be blinded by the number of trees planted. What’s impressive is when an initiative can prove how their work helped the environment.


Flashy numbers of X trees planted are misleading. Impact trumps numbers.

2.4   Restoration vs. Reforestation vs. Afforestation

When choosing a tree-planting project to support, check if they promote ecological restoration, reforestation, or afforestation.

Here are some key differences:

Ecological restoration means restoring damaged forests to a healthy state.


  • restores degraded ecosystems
  • preserves native species
  • maintains and enhances biodiversity


  • time-consuming & expensive
  • May not completely restore the ecosystem to its original state

Reforestation means planting trees in areas where forests have previously existed.


  • reestablishes forest cover
  • sequesters carbon
  • supports habitat recovery


  • may be cut down for timber
  • monoculture plantation issues

Afforestation means planting trees on previously non-forested land.


  • creates new forests
  • increases carbon capture
  • provides economic opportunities


  • may disrupt existing ecosystems
  • may introduce non-native species

The most cost-effective natural climate solution is to prevent ecosystem destruction. A naturally grown ecosystem sequesters more carbon more securely than tree plantations.

What we need are resilient ecosystems that support life.

Restoring existing ecosystems seems like the most promising option out of the three. Afforestation and reforestation have potential, too, but there’s no guarantee a newly planted army of trees will mature into a healthy forest.


Stay away from monocultures. Fast-growing plantations don’t do the job.

2.5   Afforestation can harm biodiversity in grasslands

Planting trees in areas not naturally suited for dense forests can harm plant and animal habitats. The livelihoods of people who depend on these ecosystems are at risk, too.

For example, the African savannas face risks from afforestation efforts. The savannas store carbon underground, protecting it from fires and grazing.

Afforestation would harm the savanna’s ecosystem, and natural factors like fire and tree- killing animals are a hazard to saplings.

Takeaway: Afforestation can quickly go wrong.


Restoration and reforestation may be better choices. —— If you want to learn more about the pitfalls of planting trees, check out this extensive journal article.

Now that you’re familiar with the basics, we’ll jump into the third part of this guide: Choosing a tree planting partner

3. Choosing a tree-planting partner

3.1   Criteria for choosing a tree-planting project

We’ve compiled a list of criteria to help you make better decisions when choosing a tree- planting partner. 

No initiative will tick all the boxes. But when an initiative seems to tick almost none of the boxes, it’s better to choose a more transparent initiative.

Expertise: Can the project prove their experience and knowledge in tree planting and ecosystem restoration? 

Look for: 

  • Successful past projects
  • Partnerships with reputable environmental organizations 
  • Qualified team members 
  • In-house research and publications

Transparency: Do they offer clear information on progress, costs, and results for trustworthiness?

Look for:

  • Certifications like Gold Standard or Verified Carbon Standard
  • Access to monitoring and evaluation data
  • Site visits or tours – Disclosure of methods and monitoring strategies

Ecological considerations: Do they select native tree species to support biodiversity and ecosystem health?

Look for:

  • Tree selection criteria
  • Focus on native species Collaboration with local ecologists
  • Sticking to regional/national guidelines
  • Transparent sources for saplings and seeds

Community: Do they engage locals, respect indigenous rights, and consider the project’s impact on the local economy?

Look for:

  • Inclusive decision-making Local job opportunities
  • Integration of local knowledge and values
  • Prior & informed consent from locals
  • Fair distribution of project benefits.

Science: Do they use scientific methods, learn from new data, and collaborate with experts to enhance their practices?

Look for:

  • Partnerships with scientists & researchers
  • Research-backed methods
  • Monitoring and evaluation processes
  • Research paper/article publications

Longevity: Are they dedicated to long-term maintenance and monitoring of tree health and surrounding ecosystems?

Look for:

  • Long-term monitoring plans
  • Plans to keep the trees alive for 10-20+ years
  • Regular reports
  • Post-planting tree care
  • Ongoing ecosystem health assessments

3.2   Use Mongabay’s transparency tool to scrutinize tree-planting initiatives

The non-profit news platform Mongabay created a global directory of tree-planting projects. 

They collected publicly available data from tree-planting projects and compared them against 36 critical criteria essential for successful tree-planting.

 While publicly available data may not represent reality, the database grants at least some degree of insight into most projects. 

So, how does it work? Just visit the website, enter an initiative’s name, and explore the data!

3.3   Our recommended initiative

You’ve got all the knowledge you need to find a suitable partner. If you’re looking for a promising initiative, here’s one we recommend:

Eden Reforestation Projects: Eden Reforestation operates in 10 countries. They work with local communities to restore forests on a massive scale, creating jobs, protecting ecosystems, and helping mitigate climate change.

Here are some key facts:

  • They release annual reports
  • Almost a billion trees planted by 2023
  • Over 280 project sites
  • They use science-backed methods
  • Transparent FAQ

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading & stay green <3

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