7 minutes with Forestmatic

People who know me are very aware that I am a huge fan of my students and that I love to see them thrive and move forward, making their ideas and projects a reality. Mattia Curmà and Tarek Ayoub are a very clear example of this. They were part of the class of 2020 of the Master in Digital Business & Innovation at IE, where I have the honor of being a professor, and a few months after graduating they had launched an amazing project, Forestmatic, which every day adds more organizations of all industries and sizes to its community.

1.What is Forestmatic and where did the initial idea come from?
Forestmatic is a green tech start-up connecting brands and businesses with high-impact, climate-action projects focused on reforestation & afforestation, to compensate for their business emissions. We bridge the gap between planting trees and tracking their own growth, bringing to life a set of vital points proceeding directly from our planting sites, down to the individual tree.
Everything started one day when Alexander Verresen -one of the founding partners we met during our master’s degree- bought a pair of shoes online. When the box arrived, he opened it to read. “Thank you. With this pair of shoes you have just planted a tree”. Yet, this was all the information to be found. Where was this tree planted? Who was taking care of it? Where on Earth are these trees even planted? This was the very first “click” in Forestmatic’s ideation.
Moreover, the devastating effects of the current climate crisis were, and still are, very clear to us. As technology students, we understood the role it has to drive change, push innovation and deeply influence the corporate world to lessen and reverse this crisis. So, we have designed a suite of digital products that easily connect brands and businesses with high-impact tree-planting projects, a data-filled platform and dashboard to track the growth of every single tree we plant, with real photographs and relevant information to unlock a transparent connection for all stakeholders to the concepts of sustainability through trees.

2.What role do you think sustainability or CSR areas play in organizations today?
Whether you are an investor or a company, big or small, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) has established itself as a reliable framework to report, invest and mitigate risks. Consumers are pushing brands and businesses to start adopting fair practices, both in social and environmental issues. Those brands who have radically incorporated the concepts of Corporate and Social Responsibility into their DNA are being rewarded by the market. Sustainability Managers, CSR Managers, Circularity Managers: these roles, luckily enough, are growing by the hours and there is an increasing demand from corporation in these areas. We are living a transition we are glad to be witnessing. But this is a process. And unfortunately, quite a slow one. We cannot expect businesses to drop their emissions to zero from one day to the other. It needs planning, phasing, implementation, analysis. An it takes resources and time to achieve it. While businesses are planning their emission reductions in order to achieve net zero targets from an operational stand-point, we help them compensate for those structural emissions they are still uncapable to avoid.

3.Can you establish any kind of pattern regarding the organizations that are within the Forestmatic community?
If there is a common pattern we are experiencing is the willingness of brands and businesses to make an impact. No matter the size, industry or revenue stream, the shared goal is generating that positive impact. Growing trees that can sustain rural communities while unlocking ecosystem restoration is a win-win solution for business, project developers, consumers, but mostly, for the environment. Some of the companies collaborating with us truly want to engage in these projects because, with Forestmatic, they can literally see the benefits of their investments in front of their eyes. They can share these benefits with their users, translating trees into gifts, rewards, corporate communication, branding, loyalty, … You name it! In return, from a business standing point, this creates additional and relevant touchpoints with your existing costumer base in a not-too-pushy, very elegant manner. The other scenario is made by brands like Mont Gelé Gear, who are sincerely embracing sustainability. They are working towards circularity by setting new standards in the market. These brands are assessing their carbon emissions, establishing plans to reduce it, sourcing their materials locally, transparently reporting everything they do. In this context, Forestmatic acts as the perfect partner. With a data-rich platform to visually and transparently verify the efforts done by our portfolio of customers to offset their business emissions we bring to the table a level of tracking and transparency which is increasingly needed and demanded by customers.

4.What advice would you give so that people who share a common purpose with Forestmatic can positively influence their organizations when the time comes to create, for example, a budget dedicated to actions to make the world a better place?
Probably, this is the best time ever to engage in sustainability within your company and my sincere advice is to start acting. Don’t plan it out in every detail. Start by engaging your co-workers, finding people that share what you feel, building consensus and starting from the small things you can do at your range of action. Borrow your knowledge, skills and time to implement new approaches that can cure existing pains. Just to give a little example, a close friend of mine with a strong focus on sustainability used to work for a medium-sized consulting firm. After two years at the firm, he realized he had never travelled this much before, and especially, he had never taken so many flights. Out of curiosity, he counted the number of domestic flights taken in the previous 2 years, just to find out he had been taking 72 domestic flights. When compared to a train, a plane emits x6 more CO2 equivalent gases per passenger and costs are an average of x1.8 more than the price of a high-speed train ticket. All these estimates helped him produce a very simple but efficient excel sheet. He realized that by switching mode of transportation to train and roads, the firm would have saved a huge amount of money, while reducing their carbon footprint of a solid 65%. He decided to present his findings to his managers asking for 15% commission on the company savings from this operation, which they agreed to and finally implemented. He has now opened a new business line in the consulting firm dedicated to sustainability services.

5.What websites and resources do you recommend for us to learn more about how to reduce and avoid carbon footprint? Besides Forestmatic, what communities or profiles do you suggest to follow to learn more about the topic?
As Forestmatic, we are part of the Green Tech Alliance, where a community of startups, industry experts and enthusiasts reunites to share ideas, experiences, successes and failures, mentorship and connections to tackle environmental and social issues, while joining forces all together. Among the most interesting sources of information I would list Lifegate, Bloomberg Green and The Ecologist. We are big supporters of Ecosia searching engine. Some other companies which are doing some great things in the ecological transition are Pangaia, whose clothing and fabrics have a truly innovative approach, and Ju.st in the food industry. They might have unlocked the future of sustainable food production.

We are very excited about your organization and your purpose, Forestmatic! Thank you Mattia & Tarek for opening your doors to us!

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