Breaking down the sustainability of Tentree’s practices

Environmental initiatives at a corporate level are difficult. How does Tentree measure up?

Janine Palencia (she/her) // Contributor
Tanner McMahon (He/Him) // Illustrator

Tentree, a Vancouver-based apparel company, grew in popularity in the 2010s touting their ambitious mission: plant ten trees for each item of clothing sold. The company gained the nation’s attention after winning a $100,000 deal on Dragon’s Den in 2013, though their mission was seen by some Dragons, namely Kevin O’Leary, as riding off a “fad” of sustainable consumption.

Over 10 years later, Tentree’s success has proven that sustainable practices are what consumers want. But is Tentree actually making a positive impact, or is it all just for show? Here’s a breakdown of Tentree’s practices, their goals and the checks and balances in place to keep them accountable.

Sustainable tree planting
Tentree’s blog, The Environmentor, provides consumers a view into Tentree’s tree-planting initiatives and impact. Their blog post, The 10 Golden Rules of Tree Planting: Tree Planting Done Right, explains how “[t]he wrong tree planted in the wrong place, in the wrong way can backfire on well-meaning efforts to benefit people and the planet.”

The company highlights problem areas of tree-planting initiatives, and calls attention to their focus on protecting existing forests and promoting biodiversity, choosing the right species of trees that can withstand changing climates, and centering each initiative around the local communities within the areas they are working in.

Labour practices
Tentree’s Human Rights Policy Statement outlines the company’s commitment to ethical employment practices worldwide, and Tentree’s Supplier Code of Conduct outlines expectations in their partner suppliers’ aligning their practices and values with Tentree’s. Tentree falls short with their transparency around the rest of their supplier activities, however; though Tentree states that their manufacturers (as of 2023) were located in China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Turkey, they only provide a short list of suppliers on the Ethical Manufacturing section of their site. The suppliers’ profiles also do not provide a lot of information around their operations, though some list additional certifications they’ve attained around upholding international labour standards.

Closing the loop and getting consumers involved
Scope 3 emissions, which are carbon emissions relating to a company’s product or services that are outside of a company’s direct control, remains one of the most challenging obstacles to achieving carbon neutrality.

Tentree has built programs aimed at engaging customers in their carbon emission goals, in an effort to move closer to circular business practices. Impact Wallet, Tentree’s membership program, allows customers to contribute, either through direct purchase of a tree-planting initiative, or through purchase rewards that can then be used to finance a tree-planting initiative. Tentree also addresses a circular economy model through two programs, Circularity and The Reshop. Circularity encourages customers to return used clothing for store credit, while The Reshop provides a marketplace for people to re-sell their used Tentree pieces.

One billion trees by 2030?
In January 2021, Tentree joined the Trillion Tree movement and pledged to plant one billion trees by 2030. At this time, Tentree has planted over 105 million trees, which means that the company will have to ramp up efforts quite quickly. To meet this goal, Tentree would have to plant 130 to 150 million trees each year for the next six to seven years, a significant jump from their current progress.

B Corp certified
One of Tentree’s most esteemed accomplishments is its B Corp score. B Corp designation recognizes when “a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.” Tentree has a 136.20 score. For context, to be designated a B Corp, an organization has to score at least 80.

Climate target transparency
Tentree’s 2022 sustainability report highlights three major goals to further their climate targets: submission of climate disclosures to CDP (formerly Climate Disclosure Project), getting their Science-Based Targets approved, and meeting goals set for their Climate Neutral certification. Tentree’s CDP disclosure, reporting on the company’s environmental impact, have been submitted for 2022 and 2023, however, their scores are not publicly available.

Since the 2022 report, Tentree was able to get their Science-Based Targets approved, providing them a path to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals. With regards to their Climate Neutral certification, confirming Tentree’s commitment to eliminating carbon emissions, Tentree falls a bit short. According to recent data, Tentree has yet to meet one goal, with two goals (reducing factory emissions by working with factories to implement renewable energy programs and reducing the impact of air freight on the business) having passed their “complete by” dates.

In the end
Though Tentree has not met every one of their targets, their impact as a singular company cannot be understated. Environmental change requires collective effort, and Tentree is getting everyone involved, from suppliers to consumers. Their accomplishments and successes have shown that sustainability is more than a fad, it’s the way forward. Sorry, Kevin.

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