How TAZO and America’s Forests Built a Partnership Solving Multiple Social Problems
Consumers today want to support brands that share their values. Nonprofit partnerships are a great way to increase the social impact of your business. They can also cultivate consumer goodwill and get you into cultural conversations. The TAZO Tree Corps initiative is an impressive corporate and non-profit partnership. TAZO Tea and American Forests are collaborating to create jobs in low-income communities and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities while tackling climate change.
âWe wanted to make a tangible and impactful difference in the fight for climate justice,â Laraine Miller, president of Unilever’s Tea Americas, told We First. “We first needed to identify the right partnerships to allow TAZO to scale up and build on the work of existing organizations.”
American Forests coined the term âTree Equityâ to address the lack of trees in low income communities and communities of color. âAn income map usually overlaps a map of the location of forest cover in a city. Low-income neighborhoods generally have fewer trees than high-income neighborhoods. We think it’s unfair, âsaid Sarah L. Anderson, director of Career Pathways at American Forests.
American Forests’ commitments illustrate the impact TAZO and Unilever, its parent company, are seeking. âWe are working nationally, nationally and locally to advance Tree Equity. We want to make sure everyone enjoys the benefits trees provide, âsays Anderson.
Mutually beneficial collaboration is an outstanding example of corporate partnerships with nonprofit organizations. The work of TAZO and American Forests presents actionable lessons for decision-makers wishing to lead with us.
How the partnership works
âWe believe that the status quo is delaying our future. It might even kill us. Nowhere is this more imminent than the current climate crisis, which has plagued BIPOC communities for decades, âsays Miller. While TAZO has worked on developing an exclusive line of teas for years, they are new to climate justice.
âUrban forests need a lot of care. People experience high heat and lower air quality in communities with less coverage, âAnderson says. âTAZO approached us asking, ‘How do you plant trees where they need them most?
We said, âWhy don’t you partner with us to employ people of color to do the work and plant and maintain the trees?â This is how the TAZO Tree Corps began.
âIt is unprecedented in our space for a company to create permanent jobs with competitive wages and full benefits – including retirement and health care – for the people who care for trees,â says Anderson. âWe have to make it economically viable because we live in a capitalist society. So that’s a game-changer. “
American Forests developed the Tree Equity Score to assess community performance.
TAZO Tree Corps is deploying the score to monitor its effectiveness in increasing coverage in five urban areas. These include Minneapolis, Detroit, the San Francisco Bay Area, Richmond, Virginia and the Bronx, âsays Miller. “These are all areas where discriminatory zoning practices have left low income communities and communities of color with less green space over time.” TAZO also measures impact by assessing employee retention rates at their partner, Davey Tree Expert Company. They also assess the total number of trees planted and other measures.
Tell a story
To spread the word, TAZO collaborates with singer and performer SZA. âIt was important to work in partnership with a genuine spokesperson with a connection to the issue,â Miller says. âSZA is passionate about the desire to educate more people about the importance of social and environmental justice. In turn, she lends her voice to raise awareness of the issue in question. TAZO and SZA have collaborated around the launch and promotion of the TAZO Tree Corps. They will continue to work together to advance the cause throughout the year.
TAZO also encourages consumers to add to the storytelling. âWe hope others will join us and amplify the core messages of Tree Equity and the broader fight for climate justice. We hope this will help draw attention to the communities that need this investment, so that they are healthy and resilient for generations to come, âsays Laraine.
The takeaway from a storytelling perspective is that collaborating around a higher purpose allows for multiple avenues of authentic storytelling. The collective alignment between TAZO, American Forests, SZA and consumers around climate justice amplifies the brand’s message to a wider audience and through several powerful representatives.
Join cultural conversations
Collective storytelling is fundamentally based on the sharing of common values ââby all stakeholders. By joining cultural conversations that are beyond the reach of your brand or industry, you can increase your social impact, attract word of mouth advertising, and gain consumer goodwill.
While climate justice is still urgent, the TAZO Tree Corps initiative adds to recent conversations about Black Lives Matter, race and equality.
âI’ve been on the ground for a decade, trying to advance urban forestry stewardship, equity inclusion and social justice,â Anderson says. âIt’s sad that it took such tragic events for people to pay attention. Now that we have the light, we run with it. We will make as many changes as possible. This is also why TAZO’s commitment to full-time jobs over an extended period is essential to authenticate the initiative.
âMany of the issues our world faces today, including climate change, are intrinsically linked to racial justice,â Miller says. âBy tackling one aspect of the problem, we hope to be part of a holistic solution. Right now, our priority is to thoughtfully and effectively invest funds to accelerate positive change for diverse and marginalized communities in the climate crisis.
The TAZO Tree Corps is an expression of TAZO and Unilever’s commitment to building a better world. There is a powerful interchange with the movements fueled by the brand. If you are successful, you can not only help shape what is possible within your cause, but also enable your problem to shape what is possible within your business.
How to start
Internal work is a big part of the process. Even socially aligned businesses sometimes need to reflect on their own diversity and inclusion culture and practices.
âOur domain is predominantly white and male,â says Anderson. âIt’s common in many areas. If you don’t have that lived experience of being a person of color, especially a black person in society, you don’t. “Systemic inequity that has always been. This has just been brought to light over the past year,” she said.
As part of the TAZO Tree Corps initiative, American Forests helped Davey Tree Experts, an employer partner, commit to implementing diversity and inclusion training for hiring managers and business leaders. ‘business. “Through this initiative, we are helping to catalyze change in the way companies run their operations and how inclusive and responsive they are to lived experiences,” says Anderson.
âDiscrimination is sometimes intentional, but usually unintentional. It starts at home. The next step is to commit to serving and being transparent and holding ourselves accountable for the change we want to see. “
The lesson here is that it is important to assess diversity and inclusion within your own organization. It can be insightful and transformative to work with an outside consultant to assess where you are at and how you can improve. Once we have worked internally, we can better help our stakeholders move the movement forward.
We must work together to overcome the world’s most pressing challenges. Climate action and social justice are the pillars of building a better world. TAZO has set an amazing example with its long-term commitment to environmental and social progress.
Since the start of the partnership, companies have increasingly wondered about other opportunities for America’s forests. âWe heard a lot more from business partners in all types of departments,â says Anderson.
âThese are the people in operations who are looking to offset their carbon footprint. People of diversity, equity and inclusion are reaching out. They are also marketing and branding actors seeking to amplify the message of climate resilience through green jobs. Lots of people want to talk and we’re happy to have this conversation, âAnderson says.
Whether you’re collaborating with American Forests or another nonprofit, the lesson here is to stay true to your goal. Build partnerships around this. Find ways to authentically tell your âsocial goodâ story, which can also mean having a long-term perspective. Do internal work by aligning your corporate culture around the goal and use your internal and external efforts to participate in cultural conversations.