Land Life Company’s main goal is to restore 2 billion hectares of degraded land by planting trees. In about half of this land nature will not return without human intervention. We talked to Charlotte Jongejan, Head of Marketing & Communications, about how the company is growing. And how it managed to create a fruitful business model from the demand for more meaningful carbon offsetting.

First of all, how did winning the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge make a difference for Land Life Company?
“In our team, we always refer to 'before' and 'after' the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. It has changed everything. It has given us incredible publicity and attention. Through that awareness and the stage that founder Jurriaan Ruys had in this way, we have gained contacts that we still have today. The prize money made it possible to set up large pilot projects in our core markets, including a reforestation project with WWF and local communities to restore the Monarch butterfly’s habitat in Michoacán, Mexico. Now two years later, the trees we planted are doing great. The projects are still leading for what we stand for and what we are able to do. At that time, it was almost impossible to find funds to plant 10,000 trees with a new and relatively unknown technology.

It is amazing to see that we are evolving from a relatively small Dutch start-up into an international company with hubs around the world. We are determined to create long-term purpose and value in the markets where we work. We think the best way to do so is by stimulating the local economy. The Green Challenge started that revolution and made it possible for us to become a serious player in the field of nature restoration."

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What has happened since Land Life Company won the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge?
“A lot has happened. In 2015, we were primarily experimenting with the Cocoon and performing tests to improve the design and execution. Since then, we have almost tripled in team size and have moved from a technology provider to a full service nature restoration company. We now have local teams in the US, in Mexico and in China, and sales representatives in four more countries in Africa and Europe. We no longer execute planting projects on the scale of hundreds of trees, but are moving towards tens of thousands of trees per project.

Major developments in technology made it possible for us to plant trees on a larger scale in a shorter time and, as a consequence, to lower our price. Over the past 2 years we have automated and optimized our production process and are exploring automating our planting protocol in the field, bringing down time and costs.

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Technology is also at the centre of our monitoring and evaluation processes. We have developed a Land Life geo-tagging system, which enables us to keep track of the performance of all our trees. With satellite images in combination with drone footage we can keep an eye on the development of our trees and monitor their growth and wellbeing.”

Can you tell us something about the pilot project you are working on with UNHCR?
“Powered by the Postcode Lottery, we were given the opportunity to design and execute a large-scale greening project together with UNHCR in the Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon. It turns out that there is a strong correlation between land degradation and refugee flows. We want to offer a solution that brings economic, social and long-term ecological benefits to this region.

The camp is in a dry and hot area – the extreme north of Cameroon, there is no water, and rains are unpredictable. We provide a solution that makes living conditions healthier, more fertile and greener. It brings work and income to the refugees, and eventually food. In addition, the trees provide shade, reduce erosion and dust, and strengthen the soil with their roots. By the time the refugees leave the site again, they will leave behind fertile soil.

This project could not have existed without the help of the Postcode Lottery. UNHCR is keen to operate more sustainably, but they can’t yet reserve budgets for anything other than their core scope. The survivability of the trees and all other impact is measured and tracked carefully, so that we have something concrete to show future donors. We hope this is the first of many more humanitarian restoration projects.”

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How was Land Life Company able to create a business model for the revitalization of degraded land?
“There is a growing awareness and understanding that fertile land is worth more than degraded land. Companies, governments and individuals are willing to invest in a healthy ecosystem that can sustain them for generations to come. Part of that is bringing together corporate capital and nature restoration through carbon offsetting in difficult, arid areas. Almost every company now has a CSR program. We are increasingly weighing in on how large corporates can spend their CSR budgets. We develop customized programs for companies, in which we can organise their full CO2 offsetting for the next 30 years.

The added value of planting trees in vulnerable places is that you can restart an ecosystem; improving water filtration, air purification, and social impact. Going beyond the CO2 credits is what convinces partners like LeasePlan to come on board with us. They are triggered by the extra benefits we create for the surrounding populations. They want to do more than just tick their CSR box. They really want something tangible that tells a story. That is a real breakthrough for us which we will definitely continue to build on ”

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