It’s funny to think that the development of technology, something that is often seen as detrimental to the natural world, can be something that turns out to be the answer to problems otherwise too difficult to solve.

It would be great if we all had the time to travel the globe and lend a helping hand to the areas that need it. Well, thanks to today’s technology, it is now possible to plant trees without even lifting a finger – or green thumb. A multitude of technology companies, websites, search engines, and even brands are promising to plant trees in return for a user’s action.

These companies aren’t beating around the bush…

One company already rooted in this space is Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees when users use it to surf the web. The basic model is simple: users search, search ads generate income for Ecosia, which is then used to plant trees.

Ecosia publishes monthly financial reports and tree planting receipts, meaning users can ‘hold [the company] accountable’.

But wouldn’t it be great if you could see actual proof of the trees your efforts have planted? When trying to find the answer, this Twitter thread popped up:

“Tangible useful blockchain implementation”. We’re opening up a whole can of worms here, but the fact that a partnership could be formed that would allow sites promising to plant trees, as we often see, being able to prove this, would certainly be exciting, and a way to avoid greenwashing.

There are multiple platforms being designed to provide this. An example is veritree, a data-driven, restorative platform that connects its partners with nature-based solutions.

This type of partnership allows brands to see real, tangible impact. The technology enables the monitoring, managing, and verification, as well as tracking of the regenerative impacts of restoration projects that are ongoing in partnership with planting organisations across the globe.

Samsung Electronics US launched a project earlier this year. With a goal to plant two million trees in Madagascar by the end of the first quarter of 2022, the company partnered with veritree to manage the tree-planting initiative by harnessing blockchain technology to verify and track every step of the reforestation process.

Another example of this partner type is Ecologi. This model is also based around the idea that users are provided with access to evidence of how money is being used for positive change.

Revlifter’s Simon Bird spoke on this idea earlier this year, at Rakuten Advertising Dealmaker. It seems publishers are going to soon be offering the planting of trees as an offer type. Revlifer will be experimenting with offering:

  • Trees only – e.g if you spend over £100 they’ll plant five trees
  • Trees + discounts – e.g. if you spent over £100 they’ll plant two trees and you get 5% off

Retailers will be asked to buy trees upfront – “tree credits” – and then draw down from these. Consumers get an email with a link to their “metaforest” which is shown as part of a retailer’s larger “metaforest”.

Bravo Savings Network offers something similar with its ““You Buy, We Plant” initiative. The company has partnered with eco-driven brands, pledging to plant a tree every time you use one a deal or discount code.

Don’t bark up the wrong tree

The use of green initiatives could progress to effectively tackle greenwashing. In simple terms, greenwashing is when a brand or company spends more time and money marketing themselves as sustainable and environmentally friendly than they do actually minimising their impact on the planet.

We’ve seen brands like Boohoo, Asos, and Asda subjected to scrutiny over the disputable nature of their sustainability campaigns, and that’s just in the fashion vertical. We’re looking forward to seeing which brands utilise the incentives mentioned above in an effort to provide evidence of their eco-friendly efforts.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of who they spend their money with, so the idea that brands can now prove that they are doing good, or at least trying to, is a game changer.

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