“We’re a tree-planting company that sells apparel, not an apparel company that plants trees,” says Emsley. “In hindsight, there are a lot of easier ways to plant trees than building an apparel brand.”
Brothers Derrick and Kalen Emsley began planting trees more than a decade ago to battle climate change, malnutrition and injustice. Yet the company was hard to finance and had minimal promise, because there was doubt over the future of government policies supporting pollution cuts. Once the active wear company Tentree was founded in 2011, the goal was to establish a business and use the proceeds to pay for tree-planting projects.
Tentree now offers a variety of mid-market clothing and accessories in over 1,100 stores; it doesn’t report sales but claims it’s profitable. According to Derrick Emsley, the business raised funds in 2018 to expand its tree-planting technologies among other targets, but otherwise resisted fundraising to escape untenable or unreasonable demands for development.The company says it is on track to plant 15 million trees this year alone as part of its model that plants 10 trees for every purchase.
Today, several companies find themselves affordable, responsible and mission-driven. Some are more up to the expectations than most. The purchase one, donate one Toms Shoes popularized concept was assumed to have a persuasive charity aspect not unlike Tentree’s, but faced scrutiny, for not being the most effective method of charitable donation.Tentree goes a step forward in mission-driven shopping by shouting tree planting as the justification for being, rather than an add-on selling strategy to offer additional goods.