An article in the Guardian today draws attention to the fact that Future Forests, the celebrity tree-planters of choice, may not be the wonderful carbon-neutralising conscience salve they make out to be. According to charities such as TreesForCities.org and bodies such as the Tree Council, Future Forests invest a very small proportion of the money it raises in actual tree planting. The article quotes, for example, that when a Rolling Stones fan pays £8.50 to plant a tree to offset the carbon emissions of their tour, as little as 40-45p of that goes to the landowner planting the trees. More surprising still is the allegation that many of the trees would have been planted anyway, with or without Future Forests' involvement.
Interesting stuff, although why people should be surprised that a company started by someone from the record industry and from marketing should be making money is beyond me (there's really no such thing as a "donation" to a for-profit company). If the allegations above are true, then they are certainly damaging to Future Forests (their spokesman is quoted in the piece as saying, on whether additional trees were sometimes *not* planted: "I cannot say it has never been the case but it is something we look into very strongly", which is not the strongest rebuttal in the world), but one can't help feel that the tree-planting charities are also angry at having missed a trick with celebrity/music industry planting, and that their marketing is simply not on the same page. Which I can understand, given that Future Forests turnover was £1.6million last year (see Future Forests Financials)
It should also be said that tree-planting is not some panacea to cure all global environmental ills: it is a useful action that has a benefit, but switching every truck on an artist's tour to hybrid power, or organising car-pooling for fans going to big stadium gigs might have an effect too.