Accelerating small woodland creation: our new sponsorship model

Posted on Thursday, June, 13th, 2024

Tree sponsorship is an established way of directing funding towards woodland creation and tree planting. It allows individuals and organisations to assist in funding the planting of a set amount of trees, usually on a cost-per-tree basis.

Forest Carbon has been selling tree sponsorship rights for a while now, but these trees have always come from projects that have been validated by the Woodland Carbon Code (a government-backed, third-party audited code that checks project details and monitors the woodland as it grows). 

We are now developing a new sponsorship offering; the same mechanism but different in one key way. These woodlands will not be backed by the Woodland Carbon Code but by us, Forest Carbon. 

We are doing this to unlock woodland projects (typically smaller ones, under 5 ha) that can’t justify the costs of Woodland Carbon Code certification, either because they are too small, or because they don’t want to sell carbon to fund the woodland.

If you’d like to know more, including why smaller woodlands in the UK matter, and why businesses should consider supporting them, please read on.

What is the Woodland Carbon Code, and why can’t all woodlands be certified by it?

The Woodland Carbon Code (WCC) is the most trusted quality assurance standard for woodland creation projects in the UK. It is backed by the Government, woodland managers and carbon market experts (including Forest Carbon – we helped to develop it!). It is also endorsed by ICROA (the global umbrella body for carbon reduction and offset providers in the voluntary market). Land managers who want to sell carbon units from a woodland seek out WCC certification because it's what buyers trust.

However, as costs to certify through the WCC are largely fixed regardless of the size of a project, smaller projects are finding that the costs outweigh any potential revenue from carbon sales. In some cases, land managers are hesitant to sell carbon credits due to various concerns, including the possibility that supply chains might require the carbon to remain sequestered on their land.

So, Forest Carbon is pioneering a solution. We believe that over the 18 years we’ve worked in the industry we’ve built up the necessary knowledge, experience and trust with our customer base to help smaller projects secure funding from the private sector. To do this, we need two things: firstly, we need to ensure the projects are delivered to a high standard. To us, that means following the same principles as the Woodland Carbon Code; collaborating with trusted foresters, incentivising active woodland management, and visiting sites to verify the health of a woodland throughout the first ten years of establishment and beyond. 

Secondly, we need organisations that share our vision to join us. Key to this vision is understanding why smaller woodland projects matter in the first place.

Why do small woodlands matter in the UK?

In the UK, there are extremely ambitious targets for woodland creation and these targets will not be met by large blocks of continuous woodland alone. There is a huge opportunity for woodland creation on smaller plots of land in less productive areas.

Cumulatively these smaller woodlands would make a big difference to the amount of land covered by trees, and the enormous amount of co-benefits their presence provides. Our back-of-the-envelope calculations estimate that in the past year, we could have facilitated the planting of well over 53,000 extra UK trees (48 ha) if we had a well-funded offering in place.

Alongside carbon sequestration, these projects will deliver a host of co-benefits, including:

Seeing woodland projects not go ahead because there isn’t the funding for them doesn’t sit right with us, and we have a hunch it won’t sit right with you, our private sector network, either. The UK has a comparatively small amount of space to bring nature back to its full glory, so we need to use every inch of it. This sponsorship offering is our way of making that happen. But it will only work if you and other private-sector businesses join us.   

Why should businesses support these projects? 

If your organisation is looking to support UK nature through funding, there are several options. Buying carbon through Woodland Carbon Code projects is one of them.

However, if you aren’t interested in or don’t need to purchase carbon, and you simply want to help fund nature’s comeback, then sponsorship is for you.

While you won’t be able to make net zero or neutrality claims, funding a sponsorship project will allow you to:

How will we ensure these projects are high-quality, and delivering as promised? 

No organisation wants to become embroiled in a greenwashing scandal. Quality assurance is vital in our line of work. Leaning on the team’s combined 55 years of experience, we have devised a set of guidelines which will ensure these projects deliver on their impact objectives.

  1. We will collaborate with long-standing partners that have a track record of delivering not just tree planting but woodland creation.
    We know what it takes to deliver a high-integrity woodland. The key ingredient is a dedicated, passionate team of people invested in delivering it to a high standard. We have built up an extensive network of farmers, tenants, land managers, and foresters over the years, and will work with those with a track record for delivering thriving woodlands.

  2. We will stagger payments to incentivise active woodland management
    Beyond working with people who ‘get it’, and who are committed to delivering the project to a high standard, we will also financially incentivise good woodland management by staggering payments. The first payment for the woodland will only be made after planting is complete, and proof of planting supplied. A second payment may be made after a successful year 5 site visit and survey if we have managed to sell the sponsorship rights.

  3. We will visit sites at appropriate intervals to determine the health of woodland and stocking densities. 
    Forest Carbon will visit these woodlands intermittently over the establishment years to ensure that proper management is being observed and that the correct number of trees are in the ground. If we are not satisfied with the development of the woodland, we will work with the land manager to remedy the problem and try to bring the project back on track.

At Forest Carbon, we are passionate about helping UK nature thrive. If you are too and would like to hear more about the sponsorship opportunities we have on offer, please get in touch.

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