Saving the planet one tree at a time.

From financial analyst to founder of the B-Corporation which has been saving the planet one tree at a time: Treedom.

Federico has been working since he is sixteen and has worked as ice-cream vendor, magician, cook and clerk. But he has also studied a lot. He took a degree in Political Science, then he did an Erasmus in Spain and Denmark, then a PhD in Economics (never finished) and then he started to work again. For a year he worked as a financial analyst, but it took only a short time to understand that this job was not for him, so he left the bank job and started to work in a Start Up that deals with environment and energy. One day Federico discovers the game FarmVille on Facebook, where millions of people in the world pay to plant virtual trees. And there comes the idea that changed his life. “If in the world there are millions of people who pay to plant a tree virtually why they should not pay to plant a real tree?”. He thinks about it for a while and then in 2010, together with his partner Tommaso Speroni, creates Treedom, a unique project in the world that allows individuals and companies to offset CO2 emissions by adopting trees from all over the planet. Today Treedom is a company, or rather a B-Corporation, which involved 108,079 people, 514 companies, 25,000 farmers and, above all, has planted 425,000 trees.

Interview

Can you tell me your story and what prompted you to leave a permanent job to set up a new business?

When I was young when people asked me what job I wanted to do in the future, I used to change idea almost every day. In fact, I did not have a clear plan and hence I have started to “use” all kind of personal work experiences, even those that seemed more alienating as frying chips in a pub. Every time I thought I had given (and got) everything from a job, I was looking for a new experience. Over time I started thinking about a job that would serve to someone or to a cause, besides economic and social sides of it. So, what could be more useful than helping our planet?

Every action we do every day, from the clothes we wear to the foods we eat, have a negative impact on the planet because it produces C02. On your site you can calculate how much C02 we produce. For example, one night in a 5-star hotel produces 50 kg, a month of electricity 150 kg, a trip flying from Milan to New York 920,500 kg. These are very high figures. Yet we do not have the awareness of our environmental impact. In your opinion, how is it possible to make people aware of the environmental consequences of their daily actions?

When we founded Treedom, we were thinking about this, about our impacts in the world. How much are 1000 kg of CO2 measured? This is the classic unit of measurement that has been used starting from the Kyoto protocol and within the carbon credits market. Citizens do not perceive pollution in terms of CO2. So, we have decided to focus on the communicative power of trees, which then turn into CO2 subtracted from the atmosphere. Hence, we can say that to compensate a Milan – New York flight, you have to plant 2 trees. For the record, 1000 kg of CO2 is a 10 mt cube.

I have started to “use” all kind of personal work experiences, even those that seemed more alienating as frying chips in a pub.

— Federico Garcea

Generally speaking, it can be risky to make a company with just two partners, yet, you and Tommaso together do work very well. How do you do it? What is your secret in order to grow together and to make your project growing day by day?

We have been complementary since day 1: Tommaso used to plant trees, I used to sell them. Over time we learned to know each other and every time we have to do something new, we already know who will be able to do it better between us two. Two seems to me a good compromise to set up a business actocity. In three there is always the risk that two factions are created and that someone is left alone. In two, either you get along or you get stuck. So, every time we disagree on something we talk about it: we have always found a solution so far.

During an interview you said something very true to me: “We do not make the best companies in the world, but the best for the world.” Treedom is a Benefit Corporation, which combines profit and non-profit. You make billions of euros whilst contributing to making the world a better place to live in. And this is, in my opinion, the best way to do business. What are the tips you can give to those who want to take and follow a similar path? And what motivated you to open a Benefit Corporation and not just an SRL?

When we founded Treedom, we were really thinking about this type of company. In reality, I cannot conceive a company that does not take care of the territory and community where it operates in and with. They all seem to me fundamental elements for a solid development.

I cannot conceive a company that does not take care of the territory and community where it operates in and with.

— Federico Garcea

A few quick questions

When people ask you at dinner what do you do, what do you answer (in a word)?

I usually laugh. Then I say that I plant trees.

What is the tree that best represents you?

The baobab. It’s giant, millennial, funny. Legends are wasted on this tree in Africa.

If you could find a time machine (a working one…) and you could make one trip only, where would you go to live? In past or future times?

I would go to study philosophy in ancient Greece, with the beautiful view of the sea in front of me.

What drives you to work more? Making profit and be successful (making money) or whether your job gives meaning to your life and might positively impacts the world (making meaning)?

Being able to combine these two aspects creates a solid company: it motivates our team and has positive impacts on the planet.

If you could write a single word on a big billboard in the main square of your city, Florence, which word would you choose?

TREEHUGS.

If you could take a walk in one of the many forests that you have created around the world with an entrepreneur (of any historical era), with whom would you like to do it?

Pavel Durov, founder of VK and Telegram, the nerd who challenges Putin.