Trees can transform neighborhoods by absorbing air pollutants, adding greenery, enhancing air and water quality and lowering energy costs, among other things. But not all neighborhoods enjoy these benefits equally. Tazo Tea is looking to change that with a new climate justice cause-marketing campaign targeting economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities of color. The brand’s new Tazo Tree Corps, a tree-planting workforce, is dedicated to planting and maintaining green spaces across the U.S.
According to Cornell University research cited by the brand, communities of predominantly Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) have 20 percent fewer trees on average than white communities. And these groups have also been disproportionately affected by climate change. So Tazo teamed up with nonprofit organization American Forests and recording artist, singer and activist SZA to enhance cities’ “tree equity,” or the ability for people in every community to receive the benefits that trees provide, regardless of income, race or location.
The groups will work within five cities—Minneapolis, Detroit, San Francisco, Richmond, VA, and the Bronx in New York City—chosen for their lack of green space brought on by historically discriminating zoning practices.
“We believe the status quo is stunting our futures and could even kill us, and nowhere is this more imminent than today’s climate crisis, which has been plaguing BIPOC communities for decades,” says Laraine Miller, president at Unilever Tea Americas. “We wanted to make a tangible, impactful difference in the fight for climate justice, and realized we needed to learn more first. So, we identified the right partnerships as a way for Tazo to amplify and build upon the work of existing advocates and organizations.”
The initiative also aligns with Tazo’s customer base, which is passionate about climate justice. “Our Tazo fans, many of whom are young adults, care deeply about sustainability efforts and are very aware, especially today, of where and how they spend their dollars,” Miller says.
Each city’s tree corps will be made up of five individuals hired and trained by The Davey Tree Expert Company. Those interested can apply online and must identify as BIPOC and live within one of the five communities. Over the course of the next two years, the groups will work toward achieving additional tree equity in those areas.
Tazo Tea is also walking the walk company-wide by evaluating and improving upon its sustainable business practices. “To ensure we can drive transformation from the inside out, we are also analyzing our own environmental footprint and business practices,” says Miller. “We’re working with sustainability consulting firm Pure Strategies to determine what needs improving and hashing out solid plans to do just that.”
Looking ahead, more initiatives are on the horizon. Tazo has teamed up with organizations WE ACT for Environmental Justice and Intersectional Environmentalist to help shape and make good on its sustainability and climate justice initiatives. It took part in the latter’s first Brand Accountability Program and provided funding to support a paid internship program this past fall for BIPOC current and recent college graduates. And funds toward WE ACT for Environmental Justice are helping the organization digitize and expand their environmental justice educational training programs this year. Agency: Edelman.