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Reforestation: 4 Reasons Startup Founders Should Care The planet badly needs more trees. Also, consumers love companies that push for issues they care about.

By Matt Hill

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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How are your business sustainability efforts going? If you're not doing something to support the environment, you may be behind the curve. After all, the best big brands are on board with corporate social responsibility (CSR) in some really forward-thinking and creative ways, and they're seeing the results.

Related: 4 Ways Employers are Using Corporate Social Responsibility To Recruit Millennials

Perhaps you too should move to create those results for your company, because plenty of companies already have: Converse just recently launched its Renew collection, which features sneakers made from plastic bottles and upcycled denim. The hype and anticipation around that move translated to exciting press coverage for the brand.

Then, there have been Tide, Crest, Clorox and Seventh Generation, which have all started offering sustainable packaging on Loop, which is primed to disrupt product lifecycles. And let's not forget the classic sustainability champions like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry's, which have been giving back to our planet for years.

I started One Tree Planted five years ago with a mission to make it simple for anyone to give back to the environment --– whether he or she was the average person who just wanted to plant a tree, or a big business that wanted to do something positive. It's been an amazing experience to connect brands with inspiring impact stories along the way.

Nowadays for business owners, acting sustainably can integrate with almost all aspects of operations. New hires look for it, current employees love it and customers and partners value it. There are many ways to go about sustainability, of course, but one of the easiest ways to boost your effort as an organization is to give back to the environment by planting trees.

Now, if you're a tech company working on a new app, this suggestion may not immediately resonate, but hear me out: Below are four reasons why startup founders in all segments should care about reforestation, and how they can implement it into their business.

The Earth really needs it.

Trees are disappearing fast. In 2018, Global Forest Watch reported that the equivalent of 30 football fields of forests is disappearing every minute of every day. Four out of ten trees in existence are getting chopped down for everyday paper goods materials. Drastic steps need to be taken to protect our forests and provide for the generations to come; but halting deforestation is a complicated effort and isn't quite as tangible as restoration.

One Tree Planted has broken down the importance of planting more trees into six pillars. Trees help filter air and water, provide habitats to a large portion of the existing biodiversity, regulate the climate, improve our health and well-being and provide a social impact for family livelihoods. Trees play a crucial role in maintaining a safe environment.

Reforestation is one of the best ways to help the planet -- along with its humanity and wildlife -- thrive, and it's one of the easiest ways for businesses and startup founders to give back to nature, in part offsetting things like their own energy use.

Brand values matter.

CSR is vital to a company's success. According to Management Study Guide, "Doing something for your society, stakeholders, and customers would not only take your business to a higher level but also ensure long term growth and success."

Related: 4 Steps for Launching Corporate Social Responsibility at Your Business

Startup founders tend to focus on growing their business, sometimes overlooking the importance of CSR for both employees and consumers.

And that may not be smart. On an internal level, something like planting trees (or pursuing other philanthropic actions) allows employees to connect with the company for a bigger mission. Engaging in sustainable efforts helps to increase morale, employee retention and overall workplace happiness.

Employees have been shown to be more engaged and perform better when they feel good about their company's CSR involvement. Our involvement in tree-planting events allows employees to be in the thick of the company's CSR efforts and provides a collaborative and rewarding experience.

As for external audiences, consumers take CSR into consideration when engaging with brands. According to a recent study by Cone Communications, 87 percent of consumers polled stated they would purchase a product because the company advocated for an issue they cared about. This finding emphasizes the importance of startups prioritizing investing in social and environmental practices.

Reforestation is measurable.

Many small business and startups struggle to figure out how to measure the actual impact their CSR efforts are having. Measuring impact matters to consumer audiences, after all. But the good news is that sustainability metrics are becoming more sophisticated.

According to The Muse, "Fortune 500 companies are increasingly measuring and communicating impact, giving them the ability to review how CSR efforts benefit their community and the bottom line."

Based on One Tree Planted's simple donation model (one dollar plants one tree) brands are able to share reforestation metrics based just on dollar amounts. If your startup donates $10,000, for instance, you now have tangible results. You've planted 10,000 trees, which in return has helped to clean water in Brazil, protect biodiversity in Indonesia, empower women in Rwanda, fight back against forest fires in North America and so on.

These metrics go a long way. If consumers see that a brand has planted 10,000 trees in the past year, they may be more inclined to engage with the brand or buy its product or service, based on the research cited above.

Doing good is social media gold.

As a startup, you're most likely trying to figure out how to tackle social media and build your brand identity through content. Posting about your employees' matching outfits is great -- but think about the value of showing how your company is getting outside and directly giving back to the environment or supporting an incredible project in the rainforest.

Photos and videos from these efforts are the content proof that authenticates these stories, inspires your community and creates brand affinity.

Tree-planting is also hands-on activity, and capturing those moments for social media is a huge win. Your company account can share this content, and employees can, too. It's an opportunity to raise awareness of your business as well as show off your newfound green thumb.

Related: Corporate Social Responsibility Can Actually Be a Competitive Advantage, So Where's Your CSR Program?

Companies that have partnered with One Tree Planted for reforestation efforts have used this content as a way to build relationships with consumers, draw attention to the importance of sustainability, build their brand story and engage both employees and consumers.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your sustainability efforts in gear and plant some trees or do something else to help the planet.

Matt Hill

Founder and Chief Environmental Evangelist, One Tree Planted

Matt Hill is the founder and chief environmental evangelist at One Tree Planted, a 501(c)(3) based in Vermont. After over 15 years as a business leader, marketer and educator, Hill created One Tree Planted in 2014, to make it easy for people to give back to the environment. Planting trees has numerous benefits and can have a big impact on biodiversity, climate change and health. 

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