It has been nearly 16 years since Taking Root was established. For many of those years, our team was just four people. We saw each other almost every day and were all heavily involved in every aspect of the business. Without ever talking about it, we inherently knew and understood exactly what our values were.
As the carbon market started to scale, an opportunity emerged to grow our impact. This meant expanding our workload and our team—which now sits at close to 40 staff and growing. When an organization scales, unspoken processes and practices risk being lost if not properly articulated and communicated. In turn, this risks losing both the quality of a company’s culture and the outcomes created.
Taking Root is at a turning point. CommuniTree recently became Plan Vivo’s largest project, issuing more than one million credits for the 2022 vintage. We are working at unprecedented scale, which requires us to institutionalize our processes to maintain our high standards for quality reforestation.
To this effect, Taking Root has launched a set of organizational values. This was not an exercise of developing a new set of values, but rather a harvesting and articulation of what has been embedded in our work over the last 16 years. With a growing team and operation, we have codified the principles to guide our actions and behaviours as we work to expand our work in reforestation around the world.
Taking Root’s Values
If a mission represents the head of a company, the values represent the heart. We have articulated five values that embody both the core of Taking Root as well as the principles that we believe need to be abided by if we want to successfully restore the world’s forests.
Value #1: We do it for nature
If the climate crisis was solved tomorrow, we would continue to grow trees. Our purpose to accelerate forest restoration is rooted in a deep-seated love for nature. We recognize the power of trees and their ability to improve biodiversity, soil health, watersheds, and climate resilience.
Our desire to ‘do it for nature’ is imbued in everything we do, starting with our planting designs. Rather than growing monocultures that employ carbon-maximizing species, we partner with smallholder farmers to grow native, polyculture forests. Nature-based solutions can’t just work for carbon, they need to work for nature.
Value #2: Be in service of those stewarding the land
Taking Root’s theory of change is that the world’s forests will only be restored if people can improve their livelihoods by growing trees. If reforestation doesn’t work for those actually growing trees, then not only do outcomes become inequitable, but we also fail to achieve our restoration goals.
Land restoration is directly tied to land stewardship. To restore land effectively, we need to ensure that restoration techniques work for land stewards, rather than against them. Therefore, it was essential to have a value to ground us in this principle. Taking Root works primarily with smallholder farmers, so we wanted to signpost this value as a reminder to always ask ourselves if our work will be in service of them.
Value #3: Always pursue more impact
The scale of the problems we are trying to solve are massive. Land degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change all require enormous effort to be addressed meaningfully, so we need to think big if we want to make large scale change.
‘Always pursue more impact’ is a reminder of this. We set ambitious goals and then ask ourselves what needs to be true in order to achieve the impossible. We also practice staying focused on the priorities that maximize our impact. If we can’t draw the line between our task at hand and our purpose of accelerating the restoration of the world’s forests, we adjust accordingly to maintain our pursuit of impact.
Value #4: Face the unknown with courage
Since the beginning of Taking Root, we have faced countless problems without knowing a clear pathway to solving them. Our industry is riddled with novelty, ambiguity, and uncertainty. How do we scale nature-based solutions to sufficiently address the world’s challenges? How do we ensure for quality in all types of carbon projects? How do we build a carbon market that can be trusted?
Sometimes, facing these unknowns can be daunting. Yet we do not let that deter us. Instead, we accept what we don’t know, we ask good questions, and we make informed decisions to the best of our ability. When we fail, we interpret it as a learning. We need to lean into the unknown if we hope to find the solutions we need.
Value #5: Help each other grow
One of the things that has enabled Taking Root’s success is our commitment to supporting one another along the way. Restoring forests is not an easy task. We need to grow to become the best versions of ourselves so that we have a chance at success, and we need each other’s help for us all to get there.
Helping each other grow means taking time to celebrate one another’s successes. It also means providing actionable feedback designed for growth. At Taking Root, we regularly share our learnings while asking how we can better support one another. If we want to grow trees, we need to grow people.
Values for restoring forests
Altogether, our values read as follows:
- We do it for nature.
- Be in service of those stewarding the land.
- Always pursue more impact.
- Face the unknown with courage.
- Help each other grow.
With our values now in place, I feel inspired and excited by the foundation leading us forward. Alongside our purpose, theory of change, and mission, we now have more focus than ever before. We are entering a new chapter of Taking Root, fully prepared to accelerate the restoration of the world’s forests.