Impact investing — a subset of socially responsible investing — aims to earn money for investors while making a positive difference in the world. World Tree provides an impact investment that takes this concept one step further by earning money for investors, reducing carbon, and supporting smallholder tree farmers across North and Central America.

A green investment is a sustainable one

The World Tree Empress Investments is a sustainable timber investment based on the Empress Splendor tree — the fastest-growing tree in the world, able to offset 11 times more carbon than any other tree. It takes only 10 years to reach full maturity, at which time it can be harvested and turned into a valuable and versatile hardwood lumber to make an array of products from furniture to sailboats to musical instruments. The Empress tree is non-invasive, non-GMO and grows where other crops won’t.

Initially established in 2002 as a tree-selling company, World Tree switched to a cooperative investment business model by Founder and CEO, Wendy Burton in 2015, after she learned of the economic hardships farmers experienced due to climate change. "I wanted to be able to give them a crop that they could actually get wealthy on and honour them for all their hard work," she says.

"We created an investment that would let individuals offset their carbon footprint, give trees to the farmers free of charge, and split the return in 10 years’ time when the trees are harvested and sold," says Burton. The first offering sold out within six weeks.

Many benefits for investors

Until recently, most impact investing has only been available to institutional and high-net worth investors. Thanks to World Tree, this type of investment is now accessible to individual retail investors wanting to make an impact with their investment dollars. The minimum investment is $2,500 and the program is fully RRSP and TFSA-eligible. For every $2,500 invested, World Tree plants one acre of trees. In 10 years’ time, when these trees are harvested and the lumber is sold, 50 percent of profits go to the farmers, 25 percent goes to investors, and 25 percent goes to World Tree.

Long-term profit potential is projected to be high, as the United Nations predicts that demand for timber will double by 2050. With the majority of trees taking 20 to 50 years to reach maturity, "eco-timber is a way to keep up the demand for timber without sacrificing our forests," says Burton.
World Tree scores a triple win — for investors, the planet, and the farmers.