In recent years, and in 2020 in particular, brands have tried to do their part to address inequities that have plagued underserved communities. Hennessy, for example, introduced a pandemic-relief fund to help small businesses run by people of color, while others, like Ikea and Apple, have made commitments to addressing climate change. Now, Tazo Tea is attempting to do both in its latest initiative, the Tazo Tree Corps.
Conceived alongside Edelman, the corps comprises a paid and locally hired workforce that will plant and maintain trees in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Statistics have shown that communities of Black, Indigenous and people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of climate change—so much so, in fact, that temperatures in poorer neighborhoods of color will be from 5 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit hotter during the summer than white neighborhoods within the same city, according to reporting from the New York Times.
Tazo is partnering with musician/activist SZA and environmental organization American Forests on the effort. SZA stars in a social film designed to promote the Tree Corps, which individuals can apply to join on the Tazo website.
According to Unilever Tea Americas President Laraine Miller, the initiative continues Tazo’s longstanding efforts to challenge the status quo. “Looking at the world through this lens, we see that the status quo is stunting our futures and could even kill us,” she says. “Nowhere is this more prevalent than today’s climate crisis—which has been disproportionately impacting Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities for decades.”
The Tazo Tree Corps serves a two-fold purpose: it aims to beautify and bring “tree equity” to areas in most need of it, and it will also help to provide employment for locals of those communities. The Tree Corps will consist of 25 fellows who hail from the areas they will serve. They will be employed by The Davey Tree Expert Company, who will train them on climate justice advocacy and tree planting and maintenance. Each corps member will work over the next two years to bring measurable tree equity to low-income communities and communities of color in five major cities: Minneapolis, MN; Detroit, MI; the San Francisco Bay area in California; Richmond, VA and the Bronx neighborhood of New York City. These areas were chosen because historically, discriminatory zoning practices have deprived them of green space compared to other parts of their cities.
Key to getting the idea right, Miller says, was the brand’s partnership with organizations like American Forests, “who are already ingrained leaders in this space to drive the urgency, education and engagement needed to make an impact in the fight for climate justice.”
As for SZA, “we are all big fans of hers, and always felt as though she had a unique perspective to offer and is someone that would really resonate with our brand,” Miller says. Moreover, “she has personally experienced environmental racism, having grown up in some of the most impacted communities in the U.S., including The Bronx, N.Y.,” one of the neighborhoods the TAZO Tree Corps will be implemented.
Tazo has long taken a community-focused approach to its marketing. Previously, it has held real-world overnight camps, like Camp Tazo: Zen, led by RZA, to help participants unlock their creative potential, as well as Camp Tazo: Passion, led by Alyssa Edwards, designed to help individuals uncover their “unexpected” sides.
As part of its climate change efforts Tazo is looking inward as well, working with sustainability consulting firm Pure Strategies to determine how it can improve its environmental footprint and business practices.
“By continuing to ground ourselves in the importance of community, we hope to help do our part in creating a more sustainable, equitable future,” Miller says. “We believe we have a moral responsibility to be champions for the planet and people.”