This year’s wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington, burning over 7 million acres, have marked the worst fire season in at least 70 years. Other countries are battling flames, too. Last year, Brazil grappled with increased fires in the Amazon rainforest. Already, the early resurgence of the Amazonian fire season is raising alarm bells.
These days, “there are a few things that people can come to agree on. One of those areas is trees,” Zach Kane, corporate partnerships manager at the Arbor Day Foundation, tells TriplePundit. Protecting and restoring forests is an easy goal to get behind, given the losses that the wildfires have brought and the role trees play in air, water and earth systems, Kane added.
In witnessing the devastation wrought by the wildfires, it may seem easy to become demoralized and paralyzed. (Just imagine the vastness of 7 million acres.) But Kane reassures us that there are tangible steps to restoration. And these steps are already being taken by organizations, communities and even businesses.
The Arbor Day Foundation, which has committed to planting trees worldwide since 1972, outlines a six-fold process for wildfire response. The Foundation’s steps don’t start and end with planting seedlings. Restoration requires time, dedication and certainly collaboration.
Corporations have a place in the process. Once the fire has stopped spreading, the displaced have been sheltered and fed, damages have been assessed and prioritized, and local experts have planted seedlings, corporate partners can come in to supplement the previous work already done.
As you might imagine, the core to restoration is actually planting trees. The Arbor Day Foundation says it is planting more than 21 million trees globally this year.
After the 2018 wildfires in California — when 8,000 fires burned more than 1.8 million acres of forests — the Arbor Day Foundation created a planting initiative for the areas most affected by fires. This California Wildfire Restoration project aims to plant 2 million trees across 8,000 acres. Seed collection and propagation began in the winter of 2018. Planting began this year and will continue through 2022.
Where exactly do corporate investment and planting fall into the restoration work going on?
“[Corporations] obviously support the financial pieces, where, without their support, these trees would not be going back in the ground,” Kane says. “But they also elevate the awareness and urgency around wildfire recovery. Brands are very powerful.” In a different way from nonprofits and non-governmental organizations, brands are able to reach much of the public, he adds.
Consumer goods company Procter & Gamble has leaned into its commitment to planting with the Arbor Day Foundation. This summer, P&G joined 17 other companies in the Evergreen Alliance — making a long-term commitment to help the Foundation plant 100 million trees and inspire 5 million tree-planters by 2022 through action, engagement and building awareness. P&G says it will also donate 1 million trees for the U.S. and Europe.
Prior to this commitment, the company’s Family Care brands, including Charmin, Puffs and Bounty, were the first to join the California Wildfire Restoration project, opening the door for other companies around the world to join the initiative, Kane says in a video.
The Arbor Day Foundation works with over 250 companies in pursuing its mission, Kane says. When asked why a company would consider making a commitment to forests, he referred to the sustainability commitments many companies have embraced in recent years.
“If a company has a sustainability goal to try to get toward net zero, trees can be a part of that resource. If they're trying to support areas that have been devastated by natural disasters, trees can be a part of that long-term recovery — and it just continues to show all of the different co-benefits. So, you're not just supporting trees for one reason, but for a multitude of reasons,” he says.
Long story short, planting trees can be a highly effective and relatively simple way to achieve carbon reduction goals while supporting communities and the planet.
Recovery takes time — planting takes years. But resources and cross-sector collaboration help restoration move along more quickly and effectively for ecosystems and communities in need — and there sure are a lot of those out there right now.
Image credit: Andrew Spencer/Unsplash
Roya Sabri is a writer and graphic designer based in Illinois. She writes about the circular economy, advancements in CSR, the environment and equity. As a freelancer, she has worked on communications for nonprofits and multinational organizations. Find her on LinkedIn.