Start-up Planted from Cologne reforests forests to protect the climate

Environmental protection as a business
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A digital company from Cologne plants trees and creates awareness

The company’s young team helps Planted help companies balance the CO2 footprints of their employees – and in addition to the developers, it has a forester on board. Planted provides forestry reforestation throughout Germany. Investors have now provided one million euros in new capital.

Whether in the south of the Ruhr area, in Königsforst near Cologne or in Kottenforst in Bonn: trees have been growing here for several months, which were planted at the initiative of a start-up. Planted from Cologne really only started to develop in the last year. Mission: A young team helps companies to compensate for the CO2 emissions of their employees. For a monthly fee, the start-up compensates for emissions through global climate protection projects. There is also a very local and highly visible element: Even in the smallest package, we plant one tree per worker per month for our customers – more than 100,000 seedlings have already been planted all over Germany. The services of Planted are used by companies such as the Eurowings airline, the Vivawest real estate group and the fashion company Gerry Weber. “It’s not just about compensation, it’s also about raising awareness,” says co-founder Cindy Schüller.

Interest in such solutions is growing. More and more companies are looking for solutions to increase their efforts for sustainable development. Customers, employees, financiers and even legal requirements are increasingly demanding emissions reductions. This is usually not an easy undertaking: many companies are slowly approaching these questions. “Especially in small and medium-sized companies, this topic was not on the agenda for a long time,” says Schüller. Start-ups such as Planetly and Cozero from Berlin are helping corporations and midsize companies to calculate their carbon footprint in the first place.

A trip to the company’s forest

Planted wants to enable access to a topic that is as low as possible. For example, the number of lots that have already been compensated by donated trees is calculated on separate pages for each company. The start-up repeatedly invites customers to actual planting campaigns that take place twice a year in cooperation with foresters and private forest owners. “At this point at the latest, most people click, we have a completely different relationship to nature,” says Wilhelm Hammes, who is part of the founding team alongside Heinrich Rauh and Jan Borchert. In addition, companies are given exact coordinates to find “their” forest – a Bonn tax advisor can plan a team trip to Kottenforst.

One thing is clear: our focus here is on offsetting the emissions that have already occurred. However, from the outset, companies increasingly strive to reduce energy consumption and pollutant emissions. “We work out a clear reduction path with all customers – CO₂ compensation is intended for the inevitable emissions,” emphasizes Schüller. In the coming months, Planted-Team wants in particular to expand the digital side of the start-up: The software solution should enable companies, for example, to document their progress on climate issues or to motivate employees to participate in low energy – rescue professions.

Green matters need to earn

With this plan in mind, Planted, which was founded in early 2021, began looking for investors. And now he has managed to complete the first round of financing in the amount of more than one million euros. “The financing enables us to develop innovative software that companies can use to decarbonise from the inside,” says Schüller. “Every employee should play an active role and take responsibility for a sustainable tomorrow.” Among others, the Neoteq Ventures fund based in the Rhineland, belonging to regional companies such as Henkel or Telekom, but also NRW-Bank or Stadtsparkasse Düsseldorf. Also on board are intelligent infrastructure projects from the Leipzig College of Management and some private investors, including Lucas von Fürstenberg, head of the forest administration Freiherr von Fürstenberg’schen based in Sauerland. “We are investing in a self-driven team that is actively taking action against climate change through technology-based environmental protection,” says BJ Park, Neoteq partner.

But participation should also generate a payback: On the one hand, Planted makes money by the fact that the cumulative purchase of CO2 certificates and seedlings leaves a small margin for companies. The planned software, on the other hand, should bring money to the checkout through license fees. Hammes said potential investors were very interested: “It’s good that impact issues can now also be linked to profitability.”

From programmer to forester

A start-up, with its current team of around ten people, has to strike a remarkable balance: on the one hand, it is about recruiting developers and designers to develop and update algorithms and websites. Planted, on the other hand, addresses the question of what a resilient forest should look like in the future – to escape monocultures, which are particularly vulnerable to weather damage and pests.

Planted wants to break down these structures through his plantings: “We are giving nature the necessary impetus to mix and grow in a climate-stable manner,” says Hammes. To find out which seedlings have the greatest potential, a start-up is running its own field as a research project. And with its co-founder, Jan Borchert, it has a qualified forester on board.

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