Why Thrive is Taking the Million Tree Pledge
(and why you can, too)
by James Lizars, CEO Thrive
The Million Tree Pledge is the commitment that our business will be responsible for the planting of 1 million trees by 2030. We’ll also recruit two other businesses to make the same pledge. It’s like some sort of wonderful, leafy, Ponzi scheme. But we don’t want our impact to end with the trees. With this pledge, Thrive has the opportunity to inspire some big change.
Planting trees is our most accessible tool against a climate emergency.
There is a climate emergency that will affect my children and my (theoretical) grandchildren far more than it’s likely to affect me. The predicted impacts on developing countries and portions of the world’s most vulnerable population are even more grim.
Out of the billions of people on this planet, many will choose to not do anything at all. Even more aren’t in the position, and shouldn’t be asked, to make radical lifestyle changes. It’s up to those of us that can and would to go even further to aid those who can’t.
In ten years when my kids are teenagers and truly beginning to understand what they’re inheriting, I don’t want to point to our recycling bin or an (as yet not purchased) electric car and tell them, “See, I tried.” That just won’t cut it. 1 million trees won’t cut it either, but at least I’ll have tried – really tried – to do my bit.
And for me, doing my bit means stretching as far beyond being carbon neutral as I can.
At present, the silver bullet tech solutions simply aren’t there. The single best tool we have is planting trees to continue drawing carbon from the atmosphere long after societies achieve their net-zero targets. That’s only part of the solution, but it’s the part that’s most accessible to me and our business.
Being a business for good is good for business.
1 million trees in 100 months: it seems like a crazy target to set ourselves. We’ve already taken the 1% pledge (giving 1 % of our revenue to worthy causes each year) and meeting this new pledge will take another 5% of our revenue. That’s a fierce slice of the profits we create….unless we grow.
If we grow, then the pie is bigger and the slice needed for planting 1 million trees is relatively smaller.
This leap of faith is driven by our core value ‘Make an Impact’. We believe that, however big or small the effect, being impact-driven as a business and existing for a purpose beyond profit will help us to grow our own pie of value creation.
“The pie-growing mentality stresses that the pie is not fixed. By investing in stakeholders, a company doesn’t reduce investors’ slice of the pie, as assumed by some CEOs – it grows the pie, ultimately benefiting investors. A company may improve working conditions out of genuine concern for its employees, yet these employees become more motivated and productive. . . . A company may reduce its emissions far beyond the level that would lead to a fine, due to its sense of responsibility to the environment, yet benefit because customers, employees, and investors are attracted to a firm with such values.”
– Professor Alex Edmunds, Professor of Finance at London Business School and author of Grow The Pie: How Great Companies Deliver Both Purpose and Profit
We want to inspire others.
If we can show our clients, along with our industry peers and their clients, that being a business for good is good for business, then surely more business owners will feel they have permission to take a similar leap of faith. In order to do this, though, I have to be visible, share my story, and overcome the fear of being tagged with labels such as ‘greenwashing’ or ‘virtue signalling.’
This isn’t a marketing ploy, not to me and not to Thrive. As part of the Million Tree Pledge, I need to bring two other pledgers along, but what if I can bring more? What if others are inspired by what we do and apply it not just to trees but to other causes as we do through B1G1?
My aim is to encourage more founders to work with us so that we achieve greater than anticipated growth. If all other things are equal, an unequal share of buying decisions will surely favour a business that is striving to do good, right?
So it becomes a question not of whether we hit the target but how rapidly.
We’re building the world we want to live in.
The Thrive pie has to find harmony in three of its slices for this pledge, with profits generated by the business divided into.
- The amount needed to cover business overheads – including a salary sufficient to pay our household monthly living expenses.
- The amount needed to cover pension contributions, savings and investments so as not to jeopardize my family’s long-term security.
- The amount needed to hit the Million Tree Pledge
The chart Illustrates how only after a period of sustained but modest growth do we hit the velocity needed. It means shifting from a 1% pledge on revenue to around 2.5% too.
Making a pledge like this can stir up a lot of emotions in a business owner: excitement, pride, a whole lot of fear. But even small businesses have the ability – and the responsibility – to create change. It all comes down to one question: what type of world do you want to leave behind?
There’s a quote that has stuck with me since my first proper job that I’ll leave you with now:
“When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”
– Leo Burnett