One Tree Planted is an environmental nonprofit gaining traction in the apparel industry for one simple motive: planting trees, and it’s helping brands such as Unilever, Adidas, American Eagle, H&M Group, Lululemon and emerging labels Sahroo and Shopyte, among others, do just that.
According to recent data from location intelligence company Ubimo, apparel brands that were seeing an uplift or lower relative dip in foot traffic included fast-fashion retailers such as H&M and Uniqlo, as well as brands such as Patagonia, Athleta and Levi’s due to the impact of physical advertising in public spaces on in-store visitors. All of which have taken a stance on certain generational issues, such as diversity, human and environmental health.
This concept of “woke” wherein consumers are aware of injustices, with messages often propagated by social media, was detailed in a McKinsey report earlier this year, and since 2016 “woke-ness” has amplified in newsletters, on company homepages and the like to show alignment to new consumer values, as a data scrape by the firm revealed.
With all this in mind, is the planting of trees helpful or useful marketing? Experts such as Maxine Bédat, director of New Standard Institute told WWD that carbon offsets are “no replacement for making critical changes within the fashion industry,” just as “consumers cannot buy their way into sustainability.” The New Standard Institute aims to help the fashion industry succeed in its science-based objectives.
“Unless consumers are aware of the shortfalls of carbon offsets,” being difficult to measure and clouded by a company’s tendency to “over-inflate” the actual carbon offsets, Bédat finds it to be a “relatively cheap marketing move.”
Matt Hill, chief environmental evangelist and founder of One Tree Planted, finds that “planting trees has tangible metrics,” citing an example whereby 1 million trees planted helps reduce 48 million pounds of carbon from the atmosphere, restore 2,000 acres of land, while employing 300 farmers and families, helping to protect certain species depending on the location.
Reformation, which recently partnered with New Balance in its first sustainable sneaker collaboration, allowed consumers to reduce or offset their carbon footprint by opting for wind energy and purchasing “climate credits” earlier this year.
“Consumers today expect major brands to be helping the environment and want easily digestible metrics with key benefits that tell a story,” Hill told WWD. And perhaps a tokenized contribution that they can then share on Facebook.
This past weekend, Facebook and One Tree Planted partnered in a two-day pop-up greenhouse event in New York’s Time Square to convene “Big Tree Seekers” (a community of more than 35,000 members) as part of its “More Together” campaign.
Samantha Wu, vice president of consumer brand and product marketing at Facebook, told WWD that the campaign was “able to bring together thousands of nature-loving people in NYC to plant tree seedlings.” The event detailed the process of tree planting from container to compostable tree pot to proper soil, and the saplings will later venture upstate to their final destination.
One Tree Planted partners with brands such as Unilever, which source their raw materials from the Amazon Rainforest, helping them with reforestation projects “to give back to the Amazon Rainforest in Peru.” As recently reported in WWD, Unilever committed to a footprint of no more than 350,000 tons of virgin plastic by 2025, halving its current total.
Brands such as Timberland have touted their tree count, at more than 10 million trees worldwide already, aiming for 50 million in the next five years. But as with Unilever, the action is just a sliver of the commitments in place.
“There are so many other great brands out there that we work with that want to help the environment and are committed to helping the planet because it’s the right thing to do,” said Hill.
Bédat, however, urges the fashion industry “to move past greenwashing and Band-Aids and focus instead on the very addressable ways to improve the environmental impact of their own supply chains.”
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