Climate change and New Zealand's biodiversity crisis are seeing more Kiwi businesses putting their weight behind Trees That Count planting projects.
Melanie Seyfort, Trees That Count's partnership manager, says the organisation has noticed more businesses supporting Trees That Count's vision of planting millions of native trees in this country.
"We've enabled the planting of more than 750,000 native trees since 2018 and more and more businesses are realising they have a huge role to play in terms of looking after the environment and in mitigating climate change issues," she says.
"We see a whole range of different motivations. Some are simply keen to avoid greenwashing [the act of appearing to support the environment while actually doing very little] and many have specific wants and needs.
"Some want to help water quality in this country, so we channel their funds into projects addressing that," says Seyfort. "Some want to engage with iwi or Maori-led projects, so we steer them and their funds there; some just have an overall desire to do what's right by their community and others have grown highly concerned about climate change and carbon emissions."
Trees That Count act as a kind of one-stop shop with a whole community that marries planting with the funds to do so, she says: "We make it easy for them to support the environment in the way they want to – and it is a wholly transparent process. We make sure greenwashing can't happen, that a business can't make out it is tackling environmental issues when they have only planted five trees."
It's not just big business that is embracing planting nationally. Trees That Count also work with regional and local businesses, some of which choose to support their own areas. Examples from this large-to-small scale include Mazda NZ, workplace sign-in specialists SwipedOn and Millie Blackwell's bookshop in Greytown – Mrs Blackwell's Village Bookshop.
Mazda say: "We're working hard to reverse the impact of climate change with the Trees That Count programme, as well as educating the next generation of Kiwi drivers about conservation and the importance of protecting the environment. It's about reducing our carbon footprint, and having a positive effect on the planet where people and cars can co-exist sustainably."
Mazda are Trees That Count's longest running partner and biggest funder, with 77,150 native trees funded in 194 projects around the country since 2018. The planting programme dovetails with Mazda's global initiative, Sustainable Zoom-Zoom – a long-term global vision which looks to improve existing technology and develop more efficient vehicles to reduce carbon emissions.
SwipedOn, founded in 2013 and with a strong base in the US and Canada, track contactless workplace sign-ins – a key product in a Covid-affected world. They have partnered with TTC since 2016, planting 5858 native trees so far, one for every new customer.
Mrs Blackwell's Village Bookshop, meanwhile, has planted 85 trees since the bookshop was founded late last year – in planting, restoration and biodiversity projects in Hawke's Bay, Taranaki and Lake Wanaka.
Seyfort says native trees are a popular choice and discounts the contention that New Zealand's pine forests absorb more carbon dioxide than native trees: "It not that pine sequester more carbon than native trees – they just do it faster at the beginning. Pines' ability to do that levels off, whereas natives do so for longer; we are playing the long game.
However, it's not just about planting trees, she says: "It's also about planting things in people's minds too. It's about environmental education and helping the community as a whole to see what the benefits are and how much good it can do. It's also about linking up with other New Zealand initiatives."
For example, the move to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050 is excellent, she says, but will only make a difference if enough native forest and bush is available to host native bird species freed from the danger of predators.
Seyfort applauds the recent advice from the Climate Commission supporting native forestry, but notes that business has a key role to play in fulfilling demand for native trees in order to meet the Commission's goal. "Every year we receive applications for double the number of native trees we're able to fund: it's vital that we get more businesses on board to enable the movement to continue to upscale.
You can get involved at treesthatcount.co.nz/businesses