New start-up helps corporates undertake reforestation

Many companies are taking up reforestation as a social responsibility. Source: RIR

Many companies are taking up reforestation as a social responsibility. Source: RIR

Alexander Platonov, founder of the Maraquia project, has created a service that allows companies to plant a forest anywhere in the world in three clicks, and in 6 months has planted 17.5 million trees. Experts believe that this service will become a tool for eco-PR for all corporate brands worldwide.

Alexander Platonov points to a map of the world that indicates the places where forests are disappearing. His team is solving a task, which should normally be done by ‘Green Parties,’ rather than a startup, that is spreading the green cover across the planet.

In his final year of his studies at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Platonov attended a course on corporate social responsibility, and learned that many corporations are spending large amounts of money on the restoration of forests. Back in Russia, he watched the eco-activities of the international brands. The UN estimates that over 2.5 billion trees are planted each year on our planet at the initiative of international corporations.

According to statistics, it usually takes more than a year to find an area and plant forests, since the process involves intermediaries. Platonov decided to make life easier for companies and created a service that allows them to plant a tree anywhere in the world without leaving the office. To do this, one just needs to create an account on the Maraquia website and pay the service a small percentage for linking up with a forestry company, which will fulfill the order. The forestry company has the opportunity to plant trees without sharing the profits with a large number of intermediaries.

Maraquia assigns a reforestation activity index to each of the countries and companies. The calculation method was developed by the scientists at RAS, Yale and Harvard. The index takes into account not only the age and species of the planted trees, but also the soil fertility and the region where the trees grow.

The beta version of the website was launched in early 2012. After a few months, the project was joined by angel investors Boris Ryabov and Mikhail Chuchkevich, managing partners of the venture fund Bright Capital, as well as Mikhail Kokorich, former owner of the Tekhnosila store chain, and today – the founder of the private space corporation Dauria Aerospace.

Having received several million dollars from investors, the team of Maraquia began to establish contacts with forestry enterprises worldwide. “We appealed directly to the leaders of protected natural areas, many of whom quickly started talking to us, because they were tired of slow work of eco-brands subcontractors,” says Platonov. During just six months, the service accumulated about a hundred sites for planting of forests in Russia, the US and Canada. In April of this year, the team traveled to Silicon Valley and received praise from Al Gore, Nobel Prize winner and former U.S. vice president, who invited Alexander Platonov to join his organization to combat global climate change as part of the Climate Reality Project.

During the autumn, Maraquia plans to implement several orders. To date, Dauria Aerospace managed to test the service (this is the first private Russian space company that will launch its own satellite this year – RIR): Mikhail Kokorich planted about 5,000 Siberian spruces in the Ugra National Park through Maraquia, “offering them as a present” to the employees and partners of the company. Bright Capital, with the help of Maraquia, planted more than 4,500 birch and pine trees in the Orlovskoye Polesye.

Companies, who choose to find forestry enterprises through Maraquia, will also be able to follow the growth of their forests through an interface, where photos of the trees are uploaded, and through a communication system that can be used by the customer and the executor. The entrepreneur hopes that his service will soon allow companies to monitor their plantations through satellite imagery, provided by Dauria Aerospace.

In parallel with the improvement of the model on the B2B market, the start-up is launching a mobile application for those who would like to plant a tree using their own personal money. Forestry services will fulfill custom orders by planting greenery in specially designated areas. Maraquia plans to start working with private clients as early as this November.

According to the estimates of investor Mikhail Chuchkevich, five years from now, the capitalization of the company may surpass $1 billion. In the next three years, Maraquia plans to capture at least 80 percent of the volunteer tree planting market. In the global perspective, project creators will also be offering environmental activists services that are not related to forests. “For example, people will be able to pay for the installation of additional feeders for bison in forest reserves and purchase thermal imagers for the rangers, to enable them to more closely monitor poachers,” says Chuchkevich.

Fisrt published in Russian in RBC Daily.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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