Forming Successful Partnerships with Non-profits Advances Sustainability Goals
Students at colleges and universities are increasingly excited about conservation and giving back to their campuses and communities. With support from a major automaker, the Tree Campus USA program is providing resources and recognition to colleges and universities that make effective urban forest management a priority.
In Central America, mass production of coffee beans under direct sunlight has resulted in enormous environmental damage. But support from a major hospitality chain has resulted in increased opportunities to sell shade-grown coffee, providing protection for rain forests and economic opportunity for the region.
And communities across north Alabama lost neighborhood trees as a result of devastating tornadoes during April 2011. With support from local and global corporate sponsors, the Alabama Tree Recovery Campaign launched a multi-year, large-scale effort to replant lost trees and restore communities to pre-tornado strength.
The need for replanting extends to state and national forests throughout the country, many of which have been devastated by insects, disease and wildfire, as evidenced by the continuing fire raging in Colorado. With the support of a large family-owned rental car company, the 50-Million-Tree-Pledge was launched to replant in high-need areas like these over the next 50 years.
These are just a few examples that point to the critical role the private sector can play to achieve conservation-oriented goals, when partnering with a non-profit as part of a broader sustainability program.
Forestland and community trees need our protection from many threats. The strains on forests are exacerbated by climate change, with increasing fire damage and insects – once kept in check by the cold – now surviving warmer winters. Replanting on a large scale is necessary just to keep up with these threats, in addition to planting that’s necessary to improve quality of life for future generations.
Corporations can further their environmental missions, and generate good PR, by forming strong and lasting conservation-oriented partnerships.
First, a sustained commitment is critical. Many corporate partners commit to initiatives as part of a broader philanthropic campaign around sustainability that defines the company’s brand. Companies assisting with replanting in national and state forests often pledge to support decades-long efforts as needs arise, rather than a one-time project that may result in less of a lasting impact. Partners that assist with disaster recovery have similarly made multi-year commitments, pledging financial support until communities reach pre-disaster strength.
Second, corporate partners need to come to the table with ideas on a potential niche. Many smaller partners, for instance, choose to support replanting in neighborhoods or state and national forests close to their headquarters. Many larger partners are interested in larger projects that command national attention. The sponsor of the Tree Campus USA program has a particular interest in engaging young people in sustainability.
Third, effective partners bring local contacts and credibility to initiatives. For big events, employees and their networks can serve as a volunteer base. Most corporate partners also maintain strong relationships with the media and can open the door to new visibility.
Fourth, tree planting is an ideal project because it is unifying. Many conservation issues are mired in partisan and political fights. Some of this is inevitable due to tight budgets and finite resources. A tree-planting mission is able to rise above political conflicts and achieve significant outcomes for corporations and non-profits alike.
Dan Lambe is vice president of programns for The Arbor Day Foundation, a million-member conservation and education organization with the mission to inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. The Foundation’s mission is advanced through high-impact, sustainable and long-lasting partnerships, many with the corporate sector. Enterprise Rent-a-Car pledged to support the planting of 50 million trees over 50 years in state and national forests as part of the 50 Million Tree Pledge, with nearly seven million trees planted so far. A partnership with Toyota honors colleges and universities for practicing sound tree management and care through Tree Campus USA, with 147 campuses with a combined enrollment of nearly 1.5 million students recognized this year. And, rain forest restoration in Central America is advanced through Wyndham Vacation Resorts’ partnership and annual purchase of 200,000 pounds of the Foundation’s shade-grown coffee. More information about the Foundation’s policies and programs is available at arborday.org.
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