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#221 - The Importance of Trees: Why Tentree is on a Mission to Plant 1 Billion Trees by 2030, with Derrick Emsley, CEO & Co-founder of tentree [REPOST]

April 19, 2022

#221 - The Importance of Trees: Why Tentree is on a Mission to Plant 1 Billion Trees by 2030, with Derrick Emsley, CEO & Co-founder of tentree [REPOST]
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Continuing our revisitation of some excellent climate crusading episodes from our archives in celebration of Earth Month, today we bring you Derrick Emsley of tentree from February, 2021.

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Trees are important not only for oxygen and the environment, but also for society and the economy. When today’s guest was only 16, he and his brother had the idea of planting trees while selling carbon offsets back, and that paved the way to the beginning of tentree.

Continuing our revisitation of some excellent climate crusading episodes from our archives in celebration of Earth Month, today we bring you Derrick Emsley of tentree from February, 2021.

Derrick is the CEO and Co-Founder of tentree, a tree planting company that sells sustainable apparel. Tentree has an “Earth-First” commitment, a mission of creating a sustainable future through planting 1 billion trees by 2030, and a goal of empowering people by providing local jobs, food security, and environmental benefits.

In this episode, Cory and Derrick talk about the impact, significance, and importance of planting trees across the globe. Tentree started in 2012 and as of this re-publication, they’ve planted over 73 million trees! Derrick shares their innovations and transparency in their reforestation projects and their partnership with different organizations to empower people.

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  • The story behind how tentree started planting trees and empowers people all across the globe
  • How a community of imperfect environmentalists can create a huge change in tree planting
  • The significance of planting 50 million trees(the milestone as of the original publication of this episode)
  • How tentree’s partnership with different organizations, such as Eden Reforestation, creates an impact
  • The world’s first on-the-ground monitoring and verification tool for the global reforestation project
  • How the selling of apparel and tree planting support one another in making an impact
  • Derrick’s efforts as a CEO to effectively provide sustainable apparel






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Derrick Emsley  0:00  
It's really through a community of people that we work to rally around this idea of being empowered to take a step towards environmentalism. But when you look at the other missions that are disempowering the world's ending, they're either not tangible, it's donating a percentage of this or that, as an individual, you can feel either overwhelmed or not really engaged in the mission. For us, trees are such an important symbol of our connection to nature. And we use that as a rallying cry to sort of create this safe space for people that want to take that first step.

Cory Ames  0:38  
Hey, y'all, it's Cory here with the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast, as always, so, so grateful to have you here listening in. Today, we are digging up another episode from the archives with one of our many climate crusading guests, here for Earth Month. Today, we are bringing back a conversation with Derek Emsley, the CEO of tentree. And in this conversation, we talk about the impact, the significance, the importance of planting 50 million trees across the globe. Many of us are familiar with tentree, the sustainable apparel company, I'm sure, or as you'll hear, Derrick described them as a tree planting company that sells apparel. But in just under a decade, as tentree, was founded in 2012, they have set new standards in sustainable business to create an environmentally progressive product line. And they've planted millions of trees - over 50 million, actually. And as a product of that they're supporting communities, individuals, all over the globe. 

So in this conversation, Derrick and I talk about these last years, with tentree, how it began starting as a carbon offsetting business with his brother Kalen, one of the other co founders at tentree. We talked about their tree planting programs - break those down - the significance of planting trees, how they ensure the integrity and the quality of these programs, what's the significance behind planting 50 million? What does that mean? And we talk about the implications of planting these trees in all these different communities, ecosystems, and as well what sort of cautionary tales in mindfulness that they need to exhibit to make sure that they're taking great care in the communities that they engage with across such a diverse spectrum. And so we finally reverse engineer the success of tentree. What what's made tentree successful over this last decade, and as well as what they have on the docket for the future of this Canadian certified B Corp company. But of course, before we dive in to this chat with Derrick, I want to recommend that you sign up for our Better World weekly newsletter. This is a newsletter that I write published myself send out every single Monday to our community of changemakers and innovators from all sectors all over the globe. At least at the time of this recording. There's now over 6000 changemakers getting that newsletter into their inbox every single Monday. So go to growensemble.com backslash newsletter to sign up for that that's growensemble.com backslash newsletter. Alright y'all without further ado, here is Derrick Emsley, the CEO, and co founder of tentree.

Derrick Emsley  3:32  
I'm Derrick, I'm one of the co founders here and the CEO of tentree. We are a tree planting company that sells apparel. And to date, we've planted over 50 million trees, we just hit that milestone. And for every product we sell, we plant 10 trees and we create the most sustainable outdoor lifestyle product we can we view our product is being you know, the most comfortable with the least footprint.

Cory Ames  4:00  
I mean, I'd love to dive a little bit deeper, even into something you mentioned there: a tree planting company that sells apparel. And another thing that really stuck out to me just in your bio, and from other interviews you've been featured in when you were 16: You and your brother Kalen you founded a tree planting company that ended up planting over 150,000 trees. Is that right?

Derrick Emsley  4:20  
Yeah, that's right. We, you know, it was back when you know, 16 or 17. And we had a lot of people it was around the sort of timing of Inconvenient Truth and Kyoto Protocol and some of those sorts of things and and, you know, we have a lot of people coming to our schools are talking about how, you know, the world's ending and you know, all these issues that we're faced with it and honestly, it just felt super disempowering. It was you know, a lot of a lot of people talking about the issues and it sort of felt overwhelming and like there wasn't a lot we could do about it. And so at the time, we kind of came up with this idea of saying, well, there's this market being created around carbon offsetting. And, you know, we grew up in a community that was really resource driven. And there was a lot of fear and anxiety around that. And so the idea was, well, let's sort of flip that on its head, and let's do something good. And the idea was to plant trees on farmland outside of our hometown, that you couldn't really grow much on, and sell carbon offsets. And so yeah, over the course, it was sort of our summer job through grade, you know, 11, and 12, of, of planting trees, you know, basically trying to plant and grow 150,000 trees, and, you know, talking about carbon offsetting, and calculations and all that sort of stuff.

Cory Ames  5:40  
I'm wondering, what do you think about maybe you, your brother, the environment in which you're raised, influenced you to take that kind of level of action. Because I understand the circumstances as he explained there, but for a lot of folks, especially, maybe teenagers, it might kind of start and stop at something of like, maybe the doom and gloom, a little bit and some of that that disempowerment, you mentioned. But I'm wondering, is there what do you think is particularly unique about your character? And maybe the environment in which you were brought up that had taking such a level of action? seem to make sense? 

Derrick Emsley  6:19  
Yeah, I mean, it was. We're fortunate that we grew up in a household that, you know, had a sort of entrepreneurial energy, you know, we grew up in a family where it was always sort of pushing for those kinds of opportunities, and to chase these sorts of things. And, you know, when we sort of said, Hey, we've got this idea, the the answer for it was, well, go do it, you know, stop talking about it. But I think, when I look at sort of a character, and how that influenced where we are today, you know, my brother, Kalen, and our other co founder, Dave, when you sort of fast forward to the inception of tentree, I think what was so powerful about what they kind of recognized was, was they took this idea we had, which was an understanding of the impact of trees and the disempowerment around most environmental narratives. And their view was how do we bring more people into that fold? How do we empower those people that, to your point, were the ones that would just feel overwhelmed and sit on the sidelines? That's sort of been the the belief for us since the beginning is, we had this idea early on to plant trees and sell carbon offsets. But today, our view is how do we empower everybody to have an impact through trees?

Cory Ames  7:36  
Now here in 2020, correct me if I'm wrong, but y'all founded tentree in 2012? Is that right? 

Derrick Emsley  7:39
That's right. 

Cory Ames  7:40
So eight years into it, in the grand scheme of things that's not exceptionally long, but it seems like y'all have been exceptionally successful at doing just that empowering so many people to make an impact. I think I checked the counter of trees planted at tentree.com today, and it was over 50 million right now. So what do you think has made y'all so successful at doing just that, and getting so many people involved in inspired in this mission,

Derrick Emsley  8:10  
there's the concept I - and most people have heard of it - this idea of starting with why, you know, it's, it's the most influential companies, the ones that will stand the test of time are the ones that, you know, start with with a vision of a purpose, and then they expand into what they create, and how they sell it when I when I think of us, and, and really what's made us successful as a business, I think of that sort of model and really, for us our why is trees. It's what we said at the beginning, which is we're a tree planting company sells apparel, not an apparel company that plants trees. And so everything we do is with the vision and the purpose of trying to plant more trees and empower people to be a part of that impact. When I think of how we do it? It's really through a community of people that we work to rally around this idea of being empowered to take a step towards environmentalism. But when you look at the other missions that are disempowering, the world's ending, they're either not tangible, it's donating a percentage of this or that - as an individual, you can feel either overwhelmed or not really engaged in the mission. For us, trees are such an important symbol of our connection to nature. And we use that as a rallying cry to sort of create this safe space for people that want to take that first step because we don't want to guilt people for not being good enough. We want to help them take that first step. 

So for us, our community is really this idea of a community of imperfect environmentalists, because our belief is that the world doesn't get changed by a million perfect environmentalists. It gets changed by billions of imperfect ones. And so you take those two things and you say, Okay, if we exist to plant trees, and how we activate that is through our community, our what is really our product and I think where that leads us is that we can, our product can be whatever we want it to be. And in hindsight, frankly, there's a lot easier ways to plant trees than building an apparel business. But I think what we've come to recognize is that apparel is so much a reflection of an individual's values. When you look at that how people shop today, they want to buy and vote with their dollars, and they want to buy brands that reflect what they care about. And so if somebody's willing to wear a logo on their chest that says tentree, or 10 trees planted, I mean, that's a powerful symbol. And then not to mention the fact that there's a sort of a flywheel effect that comes as more people see that more people talk about it. And ultimately, we quickly realized, too, that apparel has a major problem around pollution. It's one of the most devastating industries we have in the world. And so not only can we be a force for good with tree planting, we can also be a force for change within the industry.

Cory Ames  11:03  
You mentioned that there, the symbol that there being a large symbol to wear the tentree logo on your chest. For our video watchers right now, for folks consuming this on YouTube, they'll see my tentree shirt that I'm repping today, the audio folks are missing out. Well, I guess, starting then with you know, the fact that y'all are a tree planting company, what does it feel like? For you? What's the significance to have planted 50 million trees right now,

Derrick Emsley  11:31  
looking back eight years ago, I mean, we were excited about 10,000 trees, we we're ecstatic about a million. So you know, to plant 50 million, it's pretty incredible. I think the way we look at it, though, is we're just the vehicle. At the end of the day, it's the consumer, it's the person that's buying that product that's supporting the planting. And we're just making it easier to do so. And so, I mean, 50 million trees is incredible. It's a huge milestone. But for us as a business, our goal is to plant a billion trees. And so we believe that we can do that, in the next 10 years, we believe that we can plant a billion trees by 2030. And so, you know, for us, we're just getting started. But the other thing is that we sort of see these big, audacious goals coming out all over the place. And everybody, it's kind of this, it's almost like a sprint right now to see who can make the biggest environmental claim. And so, you know, for us, as big as our aspirations are to plant 2 billion and having plants and 50 million already. I mean, it starts with one, it starts with one tree - 10 trees in our case - and really the impact of that. So for us 50 million trees, it's empowering people all across the globe, is providing jobs, food security, poverty alleviation. I've traveled the sites, I've met the people, we're partnering in incredibly close way with these organizations. And, and we're so fortunate to do that. And, you know, the impact in these communities is incredible. And then the impact on our community here at home, that, you know, has that safe space for to be imperfect environmentalist, I think is going to have an incredible impact you so for us, it's just, you know, we're so fortunate to be in a spot where it

Cory Ames  13:24  
I'd be interested to go into that particularly further, you mentioned the impacts that these tree planting programs have on the local communities in which these trees are planted. I think that tree planting in itself is something that is a bit more complex than what it just seems on its face. You know, I think for a lot of folks they do - it's a great idea on its face. But I'd be interested to hear from you, and as well seen from a lot of the documentation that y'all have on the tentree site. There's a lot of complexities in tree planting, generally. And I'd love for our listeners to appreciate that as well. And so if you wouldn't mind, could you share a bit more of to the impacts that these tree planning programs can have. And as well, maybe some limitations of them, or things for for folks to perhaps be aware of.

Derrick Emsley  14:14  
I mean, I could talk for days about that. When we started our company back in high school, what we came to realize was that we had built a business based on some sort of government program, and that government program never developed. And so we we ultimately decided that - or that business wasn't going to be - didn't have long term opportunity. At the same time, we got connected with a global network of people that were using tree planting not just for environmental or carbon projects, but for for social reasons, like those job creation and food security, things like that. And what we saw though, is that these organizations also weren't able to scale at that time that the sort of collective awareness of our tree planting - the impact hadn't grown to what it was today. So, for us, we wanted to build something that wasn't based on any sort of handouts. And it's up to us to create the product and the brand that will facilitate that impact. And so when we started the business, we've created our own projects. We've partnered on projects, everything from not for profits, to university groups, to parks, organizations, and things like that. And every project is different, whether it be in Senegal, where we're working with an organization where we support local farmers and getting out of unsustainable peanut farming, where they're making $250 a year off of back breaking work into planting fruit trees, where they're able to feed their family and make up to six times as much off their land as they could with peanut farming. 

And they're lifting these communities out of poverty through planting fruit trees, like mangoes, papaya, guava cashew, or you look in an area like Madagascar, which is one of our largest projects and one of our closest partners, with Eden, that we've partnered with them for the last six or seven years. And it's a village where, seven years ago, eight years ago, 150, 200 people of which it was a fishing village that was dealing with the impact of deforestation because they'd cut down the mangrove trees in the channel. And what they didn't recognize was that by doing that, they were effectively destroying the fishes habitat. And the fishing started to deteriorate, and they couldn't support their families. So with our partners that we started, we funded the planting of as many as 15, 20 million trees. And today, that village of you know, 150 to 200 is over 1000. They build schools, freshwater wells, you know, there's other small enterprise starting and probably the most validating part of it is that today, that village is starting to return to fishing, because the planting of mangrove trees and those channel has restored the habitat. And so, I mean, every project has these stories, every project every - there's not a, frankly, a third world, second world, even most first world countries that don't have issues around deforestation, but the social impact and the impact on the livelihoods of the individuals in these areas are often so tied to the health of their environment, particularly in these areas where a lot of villages and communities still live so much off the land. And so really reforesting is supporting the ecosystem. It's educating people on the impact and ensuring it doesn't happen again. And for us, the way we always say it is tree planting is isn't giving it a handout, it's giving a hand up. It's the you're not giving a fish you're teaching them to fish.

Cory Ames  18:01  
And so maybe it's along similar lines, the answer to this next question, but obviously, you've learned a lot about tree planting, and its impacts on local ecosystems, economies, and societies. And so I'm wondering what have been some of the greatest reflections or lessons learned or maybe understandings you've developed things that you now know or understand about tree planting that you didn't say eight years ago, or even further back, when you have started the business, when you're 60?

Derrick Emsley  18:33  
a lot of our understanding around tree planting is definitely developed into more of a global perspective. Whereas when we started our business, in high school is definitely more of a domestic or local perspective. One of the things that we recognized pretty early on was that, you know, planting 10,000 trees is is a lot different than planting 10 million trees in the infrastructure. And the things required for that are dramatically different. And the other thing was that I can only sell you a shirt once. This is an issue for frankly, global not for profit all across the globe, that, you know, if I'm never going to see that tree, if I'm never going to see that well being drilled, theoretically, I can be sold that as many times as I want. There's not enough transparency auditability in a lot of these projects. And so as our investment in tree planting and our number started to climb, we recognized that this can be a huge issue as we go forward. Because as a business, we don't just say we're donating a percentage of whatever. We actually say 10 trees are planted. And that's a bit of a kind of fallible position for us to put ourselves in because if it ever came out that we're only planting nine, or we're only planting eight, that can be really meaningful issue. 

And so what we did was we invested with our partners at Eden and we said, okay, let's build a tool that allows us to monitor this on the ground and ensure that those trees aren't being double allocated, they're not being managed incorrectly. And so it's effectively the world's first on the ground monitoring and verification tool for global reforestation projects. And it's built on distributed ledger technology where somebody in rural Madagascar, Indonesia, or Nepal, as they go to plant for the day, we'll take photos, they'll record how many trees are planted, how many people were employed, it'll be time, date, GPS stamped, and all that information gets pulled back into our system that aggregates it into maps, timelines, and basically digitizes each individual tree, which then you can effectively allocate that tree. And so it ensures that that tree isn't going to, to Cory the same tree that's going to Derrick. And the idea is to bring a lot more transparency and auditability to global reforestation projects. Because ultimately, I think what that'll do is it'll bring rising tides sort of thing. It'll bring more awareness and more opportunity to the global reforestation space. So I think, you know, what we've learned is that, if I were to sum it up, it's that the small solutions don't necessarily scale. And in order to scale, there needs to be incredible investment in infrastructure. And you need to ingrain the communities in these programs as well. It can't be sort of somebody coming in and saying, This is how you do it. It's got to be a solution that supports that local ecosystem, that local community, and that sort of that works with them.

Cory Ames  21:33  
And so looking forward, Derrick, I'm curious, what has you most like hopeful or optimistic or excited about the work y'all are doing at tentree? And looking at these reforestation projects, and near term advancements?

Derrick Emsley  21:51  
I mean, there's no question 2020 has been a tough year for our industry for virtually - there's no industry that hasn't been impacted in some way. And I think of what has, if I were to say, like, has there been good, that will have ultimately come out of this, what I think they're looking back is, is that, as a sort of global community, we've recognized that the impact of collective action, whether it be in sort of the Black Lives Matter movement, whether it be in how, you know, people are rallying to sort of help and sort of stem or flatten the curve with COVID. And I believe that coming out of this, that awareness will be transferred to the next sort of issue that we're facing in climate change and the climate crisis. And, and the reality is, is that trees aren't a silver bullet to that - there isn't a silver bullet. But it's a tool in our tool belt. And it's an important one, it's a natural solution. It's incredibly effective. It supports communities, it's, you know, that hand up rather than that handout. And it is going to be an important vehicle, or an important aspect of our battle against climate change in the next few years. So I really believe that as awareness for that grows, you know that we can have an incredible impact and we can plant those billion trees.

Cory Ames  23:22  
I guess, with that sort of the planning, and I guess, strategic organizing that all that entails. I'm wondering, what is the balance between organizing and allocating resources towards the business initiatives most directly, or maybe the revenue generating initiatives, you can change my language as you see fit with your answer? And allocating that same time energy effort? And you know, financial investment in the reforestation projects? I mean, I know you mentioned y'all are a tree planning company selling apparel. But I'd love to know how, especially in your position that the CEO spot, how does that kind of strategic weight get balanced?

Derrick Emsley  24:02  
I mean, it did. There's no question. It's super challenging to effectively sort of run two businesses in some sense. I think for us, though, we have incredible partners on the tree planting side. And we have sort of established understanding knowledge and expertise in that realm. And we've hired incredible people in the apparel side that really share our values of creating sustainable, durable, ethical product, and that know a heck of a lot more than we do about how to do that. So I think for us, there's no question it's challenging to balance. But at the end of the day, that apparel is what allows us to plant the trees. So that is the side of the business that ultimately drives the sort of monetary side that can finance that. And then, on the flip side, what the tree planting gives back is incredible storytelling and incredible sort of narratives that we're able to lean into with our supporters, and really tell incredible stories through it. So, I mean, they, they support one another, there's no question. But the apparel - if we run an apparel business in a way that is arguably different than others, but at the same time shares a lot of the things that make an apparel business successful. And then what we do is we just take the, you know, the profits and the margin from that and we invest like hell in planting trees, and creating these tools and the systems to do it sustainably and traveling to these projects to meet the people on the ground, audit them, and kind of pull those stories back to connect them with our customer.

Cory Ames  25:43  
That's interesting, because it, it then seems especially that this probably resonates with a lot of other folks in this space of like impact driven business, sustainable business, that one your business and impact, like they can't exist without the other, or tentree wouldn't exist as it is today. If you weren't focusing on one or the other, right, like, it just wouldn't be the same thing like that, that reflection there.

Derrick Emsley  26:08  
The way I kind of look at it is the, you know, the brand can sell the product for a while. And the product can sell the brand for a while. But where it becomes really powerful is when those both support each other, you know, the tree planting. People aren't going to pay us to buy crappy product just to plant trees, you know, that product needs to support it. And when it becomes incredibly powerful is when they start working in tandem and work and building together.

Cory Ames  26:40  
I think this might feed into what might be some advice for really early stage impact driven initiatives has the understanding for y'all and that the allocation of resources in one way or the other, has that evolved over time? Did that look far different, you know, in the earliest years closer to 2012, than it looks now - you know how it is that you're choosing to invest? I'm sure that the quantity has changed, obviously, but maybe the strategy behind it in and how might that feed into some advice for other early stage founders themselves wanting to make an impact? 

Derrick Emsley  27:14  
I mean, for us, I think as a business, you go through these different stages, you know. There's the inception stage, where it's an idea. And at that point, it's so important to be clear on the purpose and authentic about what it is you're trying to create. I mean, at the end of the day, we were 100% honest with people that we didn't know anything about apparel, but the apparel was the vehicle to do that. And that got people excited around what we were doing. And during that inception phase, you're really trying to determine is there a product fit? Is there market fit? Is there somebody that will buy this idea that you've come up with? And I think you see a lot of people trying to jump into purpose, because they feel like they have to - it's table stakes. And I think that it doesn't necessarily resonate the way that it has fortunately for us. A lot of times, it's because it's almost an afterthought, it's an add on. And so for us, the purpose piece has to be so authentic at that inception stage, because that it's so much more challenging to pull it in later as you grow. 

And you move from the inception phase to the growth phase, where you are trying to really test and iterate. And I understand if you have product fit. And once you have product fit, and people will buy that product, it's really about market fit, and what is the customer you're going after, who's the customer that this resonates with, and really trying to get to some form of growth. And at that stage, it's just all hands on deck, everyone's doing everything. You're testing, you're ideating, you're, you're figuring things out from growth, you move to scale. And that's really when you figured out what it is that your customers care about what that product market fit is. And from there, it's about creating the processes and the systems and getting the right people in the right seats to allow that to sort of take off and scale in a profitable manageable way. Because the reality is, what works in inception doesn't work in growth, what works and growth doesn't work as you try to scale and so it's really kind of understanding at what stage you're at. But if there's one thing that I've learned it's that the most important piece is that that purpose that you try to ingrain in your business has to be foundational to what you're doing, and it can't feel like it's an afterthought, it can't feel like it's - for us it wouldn't have been authentic if we just were some apparel guys that want to create an apparel brand. And we felt like tree planting was our was going to be what made it some more successful.

Cory Ames  29:56  
And there are, I'm sure there are, but what maybe companies or other brands have y'all really kind of modeled or looked at closely over the last eight years now, or kind of looked up to.

Derrick Emsley  30:09  
I mean, it feels like a cop out. But there's no question Patagonia is kind of, you know, one of that sort of gold standard businesses that has always focused on giving back in a authentic way, they've always focused on sort of doing what they believe is right. And you know what, they've also been incredibly proficient at communicating that and I think they're a great example of when the purpose and the product sort of join and and those - that mission and story really resonate. The don't buy this jacket type messaging is - though, they leaned into their purpose, and it sold the product. And other groups like we're close with some of the guys at Bombas and I think they're a great example of a organization that has was built on an idea of giving back and it's from day one, and they design their product for to be the right product for their give back. Because that's what they wanted to solve for. They didn't just say, Okay, I'll take any old sock and donate it, they developed and designed an incredible sock to give back to homeless shelters because they recognize that it was a huge need. So I think like, those are two examples of brands that have kind of woven, the impact in from day one.

Cory Ames  31:35  
What I understand, Derrick, is that soon after you graduated from university, you founded tentree, with your two other co founders, and wondering what sort of kind of deliberate or focused development have you taken on to be a more effective CEO over that time, outside of maybe just the lived experience of doing it,

Derrick Emsley  31:57  
I feel like in a startup, I have probably had, you know, two or three different careers as CEO already within the organization. And frankly, it's been challenging to sort of recognize, at what stage we were at as an organization and what the organization and the team needed from me to be effective. You know, there's days of sort of war time management, where you're just sort of like, you know, you've got to plug in and make decisions. There's times where we're just testing and everyone's wearing a ton of hats, and I'm, you know, the CEO, but really, at the end of the day, I'm running warehousing, I'm running sourcing production, things like that. And - but I think where what's kind of where we're at today is really, my job is to get the team excited about where we're headed, and put the right people in the right spots to succeed and make sure that we're taking down the barriers for their success. And so I think, for me, the growth that I've experienced, has been, frankly, a byproduct of just being connected within the community and talking to people that have been there before and, and people being incredibly generous with their time and with their experience to sort of share how they've grown, how they've evolved, and what they've learned in their, sort of - and mentor me in that, and that sort of thing. So it's been, you know, I think that there is such a culture in the entrepreneurial space, and particularly in this social and giveback space of like, giving back to people that are kind of coming up. And I've been fortunate to really have a lot of great people that have supported me in this journey.

Cory Ames  33:41  
That's repeated quite a bit from many of our podcast guests here. It's quite the generous ecosystem. Well, Derrick, I really appreciate your time. But before we wrap up, can I hit you with a couple rapid fire questions? All right. Well, first off, what's a book that you always come back to, or maybe something that's impacted you recently that you like to recommend

Derrick Emsley  34:02  
a book that I really enjoyed was it was called The Messy Middle. And I can't recall the name of the author at this stage, but it's basically a sort of reflection on the journey of building a business. And it talks about every we have, this, you know, when you're talking about PR, and who's getting the news, they're the ones that either fizzle or the survivorship bias and everybody thinks that every business just explodes and has this incredible accent and nobody really talks about the journey along the way in that messy middle, and so it's a fun reflection as well as a bit cathartic because we're definitely we've definitely gone through a lot of it in ours.

Cory Ames  34:43  
That's a good one. Well, we'll have that linked up. Next one for you are there any particular daily habits are morning routines that you absolutely have to stick to? 

Derrick Emsley  34:51  
For me, you know, I like to get up pretty early and wake up, try to kind of get to the gym is important for me. It doesn't always happened in the mornings. But whenever possible, I like to sort of get to the gym early and get, you know, into the office, whether the office now be at home or you know, me being alone in our in our office. Yeah, get in early and get the day started.

Cory Ames  35:16  
One other one for you, what's maybe one piece of advice that you'd give to another social entrepreneur, purpose driven business leader, for us to finish up with you,

Derrick Emsley  35:26  
you know, I think I already leaned into the - and it's such a buzzword so I hate using it - but making sure your purpose is authentic. And it's not just a sort of add on. But if I were to take a different approach, the piece of feedback and advice that I kind of really honed in on in the past is this idea that, you know, treat decisions like doors. You can walk through it, and you can walk back through it. And, you know, for me, I feel like as a business owner, when you're starting a business, every decision feels like it's the end of the world if it goes wrong, and it can feel incredibly overwhelming, and you're gonna face decision fatigue every single day. And it's a discipline to actually reflect on every decision and say, you know, this isn't going - I can make this decision, and if it doesn't work out, there's ways I can walk it back. And I think that's been incredibly powerful to me as as sort of co founder and building a business is to, it allows you to sort of de-stress and de-escalate those decisions and allows you to move faster and and take more risks.

Cory Ames  36:38  
Excellent advice for us to end on. And finally, Derrick, anything specifically you'd like to direct folks to to keep up with you and tentree right now?

Derrick Emsley  36:47  
Yeah, I mean, check us out on social media, Instagram, you know, take a look at the website, check out the product, we'd love to have everybody kind of come and plant some trees with us. But the end of the day, we just hit our 50 million tree milestone and it's a huge milestone for us. And we're super excited to celebrate that and we'd love to have everybody come plants trees with us. 

Cory Ames  37:08  
All right, we'll have everything linked up at the show notes at growensemble.com so folks can come plant some trees with you. 

Derrick Emsley  37:28 
Great. Thanks, Cory. 

Cory Ames  37:30
All right, y'all. That's a wrap on another episode of the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast, as always so grateful to have you listening in. If you love the show, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts or hit subscribe wherever it is that you get yours. And as well. I want to invite you to sign up for our Better World weekly newsletter. This is our weekly discussion with our community of social entrepreneurs and changemakers on all things building a better world does the newsletter I write and publish send out myself every single Monday go to growensemble.com backslash newsletter, to join in on that discussion, all things building a better world. Go to growensemble.com backslash newsletter, to get the next one in your inbox. And finally, if you know of a company work within a company or run a company that might be interested in sponsoring the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast, we always love starting conversations with potential partners who share our vision of building a better world together, go to socialentrepreneurship.fm backslash contact. There, you can fill out a quick form, start that conversation with us. And these sorts of partnerships fuel our mission to build a better world together. All right, y'all. Until next time.

Derrick EmsleyProfile Photo

Derrick Emsley


From a young age, Saskatchewan born Derrick Emsley has been actively connecting people with environmental stewardship. At 16, he and his brother, Kalen, founded a tree planting company that sold carbon offsetting credits to businesses, a venture that saw over $1 million dollars in contracts, and planted 150,000 trees. This venture paved the way to becoming tentree’s CEO soon after graduating from Richard Ivey School of Business in 2012, where he has been steering the company’s vision ever since. In just under a decade, tentree has set new standards in apparel with environmentally progressive values. Named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 for 2020, Derrick has become a voice for a modern generation—one who recognizes the necessity of a brand that’s earth-first, transparent, and community-focused.