Planting trees to capture CO2 emissions is in fashion with Dutch pension investors: over the past few months, the Horeca & Catering Forest as well as the Zwitserleven Forest were founded.

This week, pension and insurance company Achmea followed suit with its own planting programme.

Achmea will plant one million trees over the next three years in Australia and Iceland to compensate for its own internal carbon emissions. To this end, the firm is investing €4m in a reforestation programme run by Land Life Company.

The trees will absorb 200,000 tonnes of CO2 over the next 40 years, Achmea said in a press release.

While Achmea explicitly links its programme to its own carbon emissions (see below), Horeca & Catering, the €15bn fund for the hospitality industry and Zwitserleven, a commercial provider of retirement products, do not.

The pair’s tree plantation programmes are markedly less ambitious than Achmea’s anyway.

Horeca & Catering Forest

Horeca & Catering said on its website it wants to realise “a large Horeca & Catering Forest”. To populate the forest, the fund has pledged to plant a tree for every 200th email address of active members of the fund that it receives from employers.

For the 100,000 email addresses the fund already has, it will plant 500 trees in the Netherlands and Ghana.

Horeca & Catering hopes the campaign will encourage employers to provide email addresses of its employees so members can be contacted via email. Horeca & Catering had 285,000 active members at the end of 2020.

This means the fund can theoretically plant another 925 trees if it gets all these members’ email addresses.

Zwitserleven already planted its own forest at the end of last year, using money in small pension pots of less than €2 per month that were declared nil and void last year following new legislation.

The total windfall was €15,000 which was used to plant 2,000 trees in cooperation with the Trees for All Foundation.

Forests to compensate for Achmea carbon emissions

Achmea wants the new forest to compensate for its own internal carbon emissions, excluding those of its investments. The firm currently compensates its emissions by buying CO2 certificates.

“But we prefer to compensate our remaining emissions in a direct and natural way by planting trees,” a spokesperson told IPE.

She added: “And it’s not only about CO2 compensation. Planting trees also restores biodiversity, stores rain water helping to increase ground water levels and strengthens animals’ habitats. Local communities are also supported by these projects.”

Achmea’s net carbon emissions amounted to 31,700 tonnes in 2019, according to data on its website. In 2020 emissions had decreased spectacularly to 10,000 tonnes, but this was mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic which halted business travel.

As the newly planted trees will not absorb any carbon for a few years to come, Achmea will keep compensating its emissions by buying CO2 certificates for now.

“In our plan, we assume the trees will start absorbing substantial amounts of carbon from 2026 or 2027,” the spokesperson said. At the same time, Achmea wants to reduce its own emissions further, for example by encouraging working from home.

“This would reduce our energy consumption.” Besides, the firm wants to invest in solar panels, geothermal energy and other sustainable energy sources to fulfil the energy needs of its own offices.

To read the digital edition of IPE’s latest magazine click here.

This article was originally published in Pensioen Pro