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What do you get if you constantly take off the shelf without replenishing? An empty store with no purpose.
What do you get if you constantly cut down trees without reforesting? A desolate environment in which biodiversity is lost.
In a world where companies invest more in launching marketing campaigns than in reducing their carbon footprint, it’s easy to call yourself a sustainable business. However, these so-called conscious campaigns are just not fooling anybody anymore.
But there’s no need for finger pointing, we all live and learn. And what’s important is that many small to medium sized businesses have a genuine and newfound willingness to actually make a difference.
More than a green leaf printed on a label
In the past years, consumer sentiment toward sustainability and conservation has become more prevalent. Today, it is urgent that a business goes beyond a green leaf printed on a label and calling it ‘eco-friendly’.
In this article, we spoke with one of our sustainability partners, One Tree Planted and discussed their mission in one of our newly launched markets, Romania.
I had the opportunity to speak directly to Louis Lagoutte, One Tree Planted’s “European Guy”, a man who was involved in the compay’s mission from very early on.
He is also incredibly passionate about the ongoing rewilding project happening right now in the Carpathian Mountains.
Who is OTP and what’s it doing in Romania?
Nowadays, there is a lot to save in Eastern Europe when it comes to wilderness. As a millennial who grew up in a post-communist country, the rapidity in which the forests I grew up in started to vanish is alarming.
The causes are many and internal solutions often refuse to arise. In a country where the state affairs in the eco-chapter are vague, and more often, looked at with distrust by the population, the burden often falls on NGOs and the private sector.
I mean, it’s cool and all but how are they able to plant a tree for just one Euro?
Stating the obvious there, but NGOs such as One Tree Planted need big bucks to proceed with such ambitious reforestation projects, and that’s where active sponsors such as Packhelp come into play.
“The model is very simple: every 1 USD donated plants a tree. We are not the ones planting the trees ourselves, we’re funding projects. We work with organisations such as US Forests Services for example.
We have a lot of donors in Europe, like Packhelp, and also some really big ones like Unilever for instance. We are planting trees on a large scale and this is the reason why we are able to plant a tree for just one dollar.” (Louis, OTP)
As our customer, by choosing to donate a tree when placing your order, you are helping to not only directly reforest the Carpathian forests, but also add to the livelihoods of our people and preserve the traditional rural lifestyle.
Find out more about the Carpathia project, business communication, sustainability and much more. Keep reading for some really good insights.
Reviving the Carpathian's Project
Our beautiful country is at the front of rewilding and ecological restoration in Europe. There are ongoing projects and plans for areas such as Harghita and the Danube Delta, that stretch as far as 2030! As it happens, OTP is one of the main sponsors.
Let’s just say that while we wait for the Romanian government to develop roadmaps towards green targets similar to the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget, the pressure remains on developing technologies, innovation, and well, as you probably guessed, NGOs and the consumer.
“At the moment of directing our attention to Romania, we didn’t have many projects in Europe since most of the team is based in North America. I’ve heard about this rewilding project carried out in Romania which is implemented by foundation Carpathia and decided this is it.
Some of the projects we do are agroforestry, in particular in South America and Africa for example, are very important for preventing soil erosion, but for me, I personally resonate with the idea of wilderness, especially in Europe, where there’s not much wilderness left.
For our project in Romania, we will plant at least a million trees in the next couple of years. It might even be one of the largest reforestation projects happening at the moment in Europe.
The project we have ongoing in Romania fits our model and it makes sense to do it on a large scale because it creates jobs, preserves the rural livelihoods of the population and cherishes the continuity of local trades. All of which, we would not be able to achieve without the help of our partners. Foundation Carpathia is one of the main reasons we are doing this. They are able to scale up the work and they have their own land and nursery. We are looking to help them scale up their work in the next 5 years. If this plan goes through and they manage to acquire the land needed, we would love it if we would plant a million over the next years”
1 million trees for one project only!
At this point in our conversation, I was eager to raise the illegal deforestation issues that are happening in Romania, as a way of gathering info on how big organisations and their partners can be sure they are able to see their projects going through.
“The land we plant on is under protection for perpetuity so it is supervised permanently. The plan is to transform it into a large national park, all this in due time, when there is not going to be any internal pressure.”
There is a lot of upscale restoration work happening in Eastern Europe at the moment, and as suspected, part of it is due to deforestation, but also because of the intensification of mechanisation of agriculture. This causes scarcity in jobs and eventually, makes the rural population drop.
One of the immediate results of a replanting project such as the one happening in the Făgăraș Mountains, is creating jobs for the local population.
This improves not only the livelihood of these people, but also the area's living standards. It is insane to think what the plant a tree option such as the one offered by Packhelp, can mean for an entire area.
The current “Reviving the Carpathians Project” is due to hit its mark in 2022 and thanks to the constant donors, the work can continue across Romania for at least 7 more years.
The future targeted area is Sândominic, The story of the oak forests of Ciuc.
What about the climate discourse?
The good news is that people are aware and they are willing to learn how to channel time and effort onto the right things. Even though businesses are not perfect, the intention is there, everything is developing and that is what really matters.
The bad news is the way the climate discourse is sold to us.
The environmental discourse, in general, focuses too much on purely carbon topics, when the main threats are much more urgent.
The biodiversity loss, the habitat loss and everything we are doing much more directly like excessive fishing for example - these topics don't get enough attention.
Perhaps it is time for businesses to find a cause they actually care about and invest all their efforts in that direction.
The idea that you can buy sustainability, you can consume your way out of the problem, is a marketing discourse, when the problem is rooted in consumption.
For instance, all the start-ups that popped up in the past few years, claiming they’re carbon neutral just because they’ve planted a tree, is not just wishful thinking, but selling an actual lie.
Takes time for a sapling to grow and do its job, so communicating that your business is carbon neutral and throwing numbers out there is unethical and incorrect.
What can you do instead?
- Rethink the way you are allocating funds on zero carbon projects
- Use a substantial chunk of your own marketing budget for sustainability purposes
- Listen to customer's demand, we all want a greener future
- Invest time into creating a transparent communication channel
- Learn about eco properties and make them available for your client base
- Opt for the appropriate certifications such as the FSC®
- Hire a sustainability consultant or if the budget permits, a permanent sustainability manager.
Money makes the world go round, right? (or lay flat if you believe in that sort of thing)
I am lucky enough to work in an environment where sustainability is constantly on the table. Our initiatives are different shades of green.
At Packhelp, we are doing our part by constantly investing in innovation and working towards a transparent and sustainable eco-chapter in the history of our company, and why not, of packaging everywhere.