Where the Sustainable Development Goals and World Tree Come Together
At first glance, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals sounds like a plan for eco-friendly manufacturing, a guideline for how to offer take-out containers consumers can upcycle. In actuality, the core objective of the 17 SDGs is much loftier – the reduction of global poverty and peace for all.
Each SGD represents one thread in the Gordian knot of human suffering. The goals run the gamut from obvious issues, such as the need for clean drinking water or economic development, to more subtle contributing factors such as the pervasive lack of gender equality or limited access to legitimate judicial structures. The unapologetic ambition of the SGDs is staggering: affordable clean energy, reduced inequalities, and climate action. Though it may seem like an idealist’s wish list, in reality, the SDGs very scope acknowledges two essential truths of living as a human being on this planet: first, that the health of our planet is directly related to the health of the people who live on it and secondly, true human health stems from so much more than having basic needs for food and shelter met.
In the face of such a daunting reality, what can one possibly do? World Tree answers this question with a humble, undeniably effective answer: Plant trees. The Paulownia (Empress) tree, to be exact. As a company that offers the opportunity for individuals to become impact investors, simply investing in one unit of these non-invasive Paulownia trees exponentially amplifies one’s positive impact on the planet.
During the 10 years it takes the Paulownia tree to reach maturity, and ultimately be harvested as a sustainable hardwood, it will achieve seven of the U.N.’s SDGs, according to a NatureBank report prepared for World Tree.
No Poverty: World Tree shares 50 percent of the profits from the timber harvest with its farmers and lets them keep the trees after the first harvest under its Free Tree Program. Paulownia trees regrow up to seven times from the stump without replanting, which means farmers gain a long-term, sustainable source of income, often in areas where economic stability is difficult to achieve under the best of circumstances.
Gender Equality: From its executive team through its farmers, World Tree empowers women professionally. The organization’s C-suite is a litany of successful women, starting with Founder and Chair Wendy Burton, COO and President Dr. Cathy Key, CIO Angela Nauta, and CFO Deborah Cullen. Farmers like Kim Martens in the U.S. and Carmelita and Maria Julia in Costa Rica are carving out a niche in the traditionally male-dominated sphere of agriculture. World Tree doesn’t just hire women, however. Its culture and the very work the company does puts women in a position to thrive professionally.
Affordable and clean energy: World Tree is examining becoming involved in producing biochar, a method of using plant residue like wood chips to create charcoal used to enriched soil and clear land. The biochar is made using pyrolysis, an anaerobic heating method that is less harmful to the environment. A growing number of biochar production technologies can be used to produce heat and/or electricity and/or syngas. Biochar also has the potential to increase carbon sequestration.
Decent Work and Economic Growth: After the first harvest, Eco-Tree Program farmers are able to keep every tree that’s been planted on their land and retain 100 percent of the profits from every harvest thereafter. Since the Empress tree regrows up to seven times from the stump without replanting, the first World Tree harvest is actually a foundation for long-term, sustainable income. Farmers often hire their own local teams, fostering a healthy local economy while providing sustainable livings to others.
Responsible Consumption and Production: Empress trees go above and beyond when it comes to this SDG. The regenerative ability of the Paulownia tree – one tree can yield up to seven harvests without replanting — provides a sustainable timber supply that protects old-growth forests simply by offering an alternative. Meanwhile, its large, three-foot leaves actually regenerate fallow soil; not only does it not cause harm to its surroundings through its production, the stated goal of this SDG, the Empress actually heals its environment. As if that isn’t enough, these trees are also a highly desired inter-crop beloved by Costa Rican coffee farmers for their shade.
Climate Action: The Paulownia tree’s massive leaves and exceptionally fast growth rate translate into an ability to sequester a massive amount of carbon. It also enables agroforestry, a farming practice that helps conserve and protect the land by planting woody perennials with other crops or animals.
Life on land: Paulownia was made for this SDG. They can be planted on fallow land and heal soil when their giant leaves shed in the winter. They are the epitome of a sustainable forest, encourage desperately-needed pollination, and provide an environment for land-based creatures.
All of this is achieved simply by investing in sustainable timber. When you put it that way, ending world poverty isn’t so daunting after all.
Find out how you can get involved with World Tree’s Eco-Tree Program and participate in the UN Sustainability Development Goals focused on ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all by 2030 by visiting https://worldtree.info/invest2019/.
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