zeroCO2 - Reforestation with high social impact

With zeroCO2 you can plant a tree with a clik and track its growth online thanks to our innovative tracking and transparency system.

Photo of Andrea Pesce
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Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Andrea Pesce

Initiative's representative date of birth

01/05/1994

Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • Italy

Headquarters location: city

Rome, Italy Santa Elena, Guatemala

Where are you making a difference?

Guatemala, Petén, Santa Elena Perù, Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios Italia, Milan - Triest

Website or social media url(s)

www.bezeroco2.com www.instagram.com/bezeroco2 www.facebook.com/bezeroco2 https://www.linkedin.com/company/bezeroco2

Date Started

10/2019

Project Stage

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working toward the next level of expansion)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €500k - €1m

Organization Type

  • For-profit

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

The story of zeroCO2 began in Guatemala in 2017. Andrea and Raffaele, from Italy, were in the country for the management of an educational project. Virgilio, a local professor was their contact person. After a meeting in the school of a rural community in the Petén region, in which we planned training sessions on organic farming, we went to Virgilio's house and eating a bowl of spaghetti, the idea of zeroCO2 was born. Environmental protection and high social value were translated into a reforestation project with a high social impact. They started planning and designing the foundations of the newborn project. zeroCO2 was thus based on human relations.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The problem is clear: deforestation. The World Bank estimates that an area of forest equivalent to the area of Europe went lost in the last century, about 10 mln sq. km. Three are the main consequences: loss of biodiversity, since forests are home to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity, containing a wide array of trees, animals and microbes; carbon sink reduction: forests absorb yearly 10% of the GHG emissions; lastly the social consequences: overexploitation of the soil that leads to food insecuri

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

zeroCO2 aims to reforest and restore areas that have been damaged by human activities. With zeroCO2 planting a tree is just a click away. Both consumer and business can easily plant a tree via our web platform at www.bezeroco2.com and track the growth of the three thanks to our innovative system CHLOE (see question 4). zeroCO2 directly controls the entire value chain allowing us to easily tailor and adapt our services to the market. zeroCO2 deals with reforestation with high social impact by regenerating plots of land destroyed by human activities. All trees planted by zeroCO2 are donated to local farming families. The reforestation model used by zeroCO2 is the regenerative agroforestry, recognized worldwide as the most virtuous reforestation system. This model involves the planting of fruit trees and forest trees in the same plot of land, creating a direct link with the local communities involved in the project, as it generates a community interest in maintaining a forest as it is a source of income and food. zeroCO2 is also involved in training peasant communities on organic farming and sustainable land management as we are convinced that sustainability is also about the hu

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

zeroCO2 developed the most advanced and transparent tree tracking system that we called CHLOE, inspired by the ancient greek word that meant fertility. It is a blockchain-like system, in which each tree is geolocated and tagged with a unique QR code, printed on a special weatherproof label that is attached to the tree. Each tree is photographed by our local staff showing the CHLOE code. We send updates for four years in order to inform our customers on the growth of their trees. Our innovative approach comprehends training on organic farming and sustainable land management to the involved local communities. The involvement of these actors leads our project to create a shared value between us and the society where we operate.

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

zeroCO2 developed a strong network of partners in Italy and Guatemala. Our activities are supported by various institutions in the area: Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala supports the project in the design of reforestation plans by dedicating a team of professors and students; INAB supports the project in the selection of areas to be reforested; Fondo de Tierra has decades of experience in the management of projects with high social impact and supports the project in the relations with communities; the Ministry of the Environment creates links with local administrations for the smooth running of projects; Lumsa University of Rome, with a dedicated team supports the creation of the community trainings; Scholas Occurrentes Foundation supports the internationalisation of the project. Sustainability is a multifaceted and transverse topic, so the stakeholders are multiple. From private citizens, to small and large companies, everyone plays a key role in supporting our projects.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

We have planted more than 120,000 trees between Guatemala and Italy involving about 4000 families of farmers and reforested more than 120 hectares in just a few months of activity. The environmental impact of such effort result in 72,000 tons of CO2 compensated. It is even more evident the impact on the regeneration on the soil nutrients of the areas treated and the restoration of the original biodiversity. Regarding the socio-economic impact, we gave already over 500 hours of courses to rural communities in northern Guatemala on organic farming and sustainable land-use management, along with our partners and NGOs, like Comparte. We work on raising awareness on climate change and sustainability issues through different social media platforms (our instagram counts more than 11k followers). While the economic impact of our work is distributed among 50 business client, 2 are listed multinationals, we have more than 3500 consumer. We are now launching two new region: Argentina and Perù.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

Our strategy is to have a unique value proposition that allows us to position ourselves in the market with a better and more attractive offer. By personally managing our entire value chain we are able to customize our services. We continuously innovate our tracking and transparency system to the point of converting it into a community engagement tool. Finally, zeroCO2 is enriched by synergies with partners throughout Europe, which allows us to showcase our offer to more realities. Finally, zeroCO2 structures marketing campaigns with the aim of maximising the conversion rate from the outset. This has enabled us to rapidly scale up our reference sector. Our operation model is structured to be replicable and scalable.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

By donating fruit trees to the families of farmers involved, we generate food security and economic support. In collaboration with the local University, we train farmers in sustainable land management. In addition, thanks to the training programs of non-profit organizations (Comparte), we aim to create shared value on the land by working on the education of the population. zeroCO2 with its reforestation plans gives society a several amount of positive externalities. Our reforestation plans offset GHGs emissions. Through our support to the local communities we create economic and educational value by creating social value in these geographical areas, affected by environmental degradation.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

We have built a three-year precautionary plan in terms of marketing investments to avoid expensive sources of funding.This plan shows a cash requirement of around €100,000 in the first year. We have decided to finance zeroCO2 exclusively from our own resources and from non-interest-bearing shareholder loans that we expect the company to be able to repay within 12/18 months depending on sales trends. Thanks to the marginality, the containment of opex and an excellent return on investment, in the medium/long term the self-financing will allow the company to adequately meet its cash requirements.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

zeroCO2’s team (entirely under 30) has a multifaceted and versatile composition, thanks to the different qualifications, skills and experiences that each member has. zeroCO2 is expanding its team and hiring a new operations manager. Italy Full time employees: Executive manager; Communications manager; Client manager; Sales team (3 full-time employees). Guatemala Full time employees: Country Manager, Communities manager, Nursery manager, Nursery staff (2 full-time employees).

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

12. Connection to Biodiversity: How does your project directly contributes to preserving and/or restoring biodiversity? Please share data to support your answer.

Our projects can help to reverse two planetary crisis. Reforestation offers one of the best way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, turning it into solid carbon through photosynthesis and storing it in the tree. Secondly, reforestation can also begin to recreate habitats, destroyed by deforestation for intensive monoculture. The lack of these habitat is threatening the extinction of a million animals and plant species for a quarter of life on Earth, according to a 2019 UN report. Research shows that even though reforestation is not a substitute for forest conservation, reforested areas contribute to reactivate the biodiversity of flora and fauna, resulting in an increase of species richness. Reforested areas that result to be on average 40-70% more species rich if compared to territories covered by cropland or by monoculture plantations, especially when we take into consideration bird populations and bees population (both important marker for the restoration of the biodiversity).

13. Example: Please walk us through one or two concrete examples that show how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address.

zeroCO2's reforestation plans are committed to solving different categories of problems. The choice of local species, at the heart of the regenerative agroforestry reforestation system, brings many advantages. For example, a tree of Swietenia macrophylla, commonly known as mahogany, will absorb over 600kg of CO2 during its lifetime to fight the greenhouse effect and global warming, the same tree included in the context of our reforestation plan will help to restore the natural biodiversity of the area by attracting and stimulating the growth of flora and fauna. Our agroforestry reforestation system also includes fruit trees, such as the American Persea, commonly known as avocado tree, will help local families to improve their diet and combat food insecurity. The last one is our cooperation with the local communities that aims to develop a bond among environment and human capabilities, a Guatemalan farmer one day told us that a fruit tree was like an investment fund for him.

14. Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem in your environment? How does your proposed project differ from these other approaches?

Fortunately, the increasing attention to environmental issues has led to the birth of a lot of realities (both companies around the world and many non-profit organizations) that are trying to solve the problem. In this way, all together we will hopefully be able to achieve a result that benefits the planet Earth. In this wide panorama zeroCO2 clearly differentiates itself thanks to the innovative tracking and transparency system CHLOE. In addition we develop skills on the territory with the aim of feeding a virtuous system able to self-manage itself even without the presence of zeroCO2 on the territory. The basic idea is to teach people how to fish and not just give them fish, this metaphor means that nowadays neither environmental projects nor economic and social ones can escape sustainability at their core.

15. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

zeroCO2 has received numerous awards and prizes over the past year: best innovative environmental start-up awarded by Confidustria-Reggio Emilia; selected for the final stage of “Start-up Day”, start-up contest organized by the University of Bologna; chosen as partner for sustainability by Maker Faire Europe, the largest trade fair on innovation in Italy; by La Stampa one of the leading Italian newspapers; by a United Nations youth project, RIMUN

16. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

First year Equity: 10000€ Shareholders loans: 90’000€ Projected earned income 2020: 400’000€ (first year of activity)

17. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge? How would you invest the prize money to leverage your work?

zeroCO2 will continue to follow its strategy of creating economic value for the company itself and for the communities in which it works. What is good for the community is good for business. We would like to invest the prize to expand the activities and marketing campaigns we are already running to present them to our community to raise awareness and involve individuals and companies; open new reforestation plans, strengthening those already in place; improve the infrastructure for our nursery in Guatemala. We have in mind to build a rainwater collection system for nursery irrigation; to expand our production thanks to an enlargement of the nursery; build a photovoltaic system on site. Part of the award will be directed to further improve our innovative tracking system, CHLOE. In order to start new reforestation plans in different places on the planet, we are looking for a new member for our team who can contribute to the expansion of our activities and enhance our team.

Attachments (1)

zeroCO2_H_Eng.pdf

A brief presentation of the team and our projects.

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Photo of Carson McBain

Your project's use of a unique QR code to track growth is creative and will help sustain long-term engagement with those who plant trees, and combining that with a CO2 emissions offset plan is innovative. The collaboration with universities across borders and oceans is smart and is no doubt enhancing your impact; if you can do a deeper dive into how and what specific activities they are supporting you with, it would be helpful. You mention that you are training farmers in organic agriculture which is exciting; I would have loved to see more information about that narrative & work. I would suggest to elaborate on your financial sustainability plan, as I didn't completely understand what 'B2B and B2C' refers to, and to discuss the different species of trees planted & their significance for creating a biodiverse ecosystem. In general, the more supportive details you can provide, the more it will do justice to your great work. Thanks for sharing your innovation with us!

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