American Forests and TAZO Tea teamed up in 2021 and launched the TAZO Tree Corps, a paid, locally-hired workforce that is planting and taking care of trees to help mitigate climate change, address environmental injustice and bring jobs to people of color and those in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
For the launch, TAZO also brought star power by partnering with singer-songwriter SZA, who created a video urging young people to join the TAZO Tree Corps and educating around the urgency to fight for climate justice.
The TAZO Tree Corps pioneers a new model to build and retain a diverse urban forestry workforce and help cities achieve Tree Equity, a vision for all people in every community to receive the benefits that trees provide, regardless of income, race or location. The TAZO Tree Corps launched first in Minneapolis, the San Francisco Bay Area and Detroit. In 2022, it will expand employment opportunities to Richmond, Va., and The Bronx, N.Y. The model has attracted the attention of additional funders, and the Tree Corps model is now being rolled out in additional cities.
“The climate crisis is no longer a future problem — it’s here now, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities are disproportionately at risk,” says Laraine Miller, president of ekaterra Americas, which owns TAZO. “As a brand rooted in challenging the status quo, we believe we have a role to play in fighting for a sustainable and equitable future, which is why TAZO is announcing the first steps of a long-term purpose ambition to fight for climate justice. Climate change is not only an environmental issue, but also a human rights issue, so we’re getting started by focusing on the racial injustices that must be addressed to make meaningful progress within the climate crisis.”
Urban forestry has a shortage of skilled workers with thousands of job openings, and the industry is almost entirely white and male. Even with an acute labor shortage, women and people of color are still severely underrepresented in tree care
Under the TAZO Tree Corps model, local workforce partners help recruit applicants from communities that are underrepresented in urban forestry. TAZO Tree Corps fellows receive two weeks of paid urban forestry training, and then transition to full-time employment with The Davey Tree Expert Company. Grassroots partners provide new hires with stipends that help address barriers to retention, including housing, transportation and childcare, to ensure they can have a smooth transition into the workplace.
The TAZO partnership has been key to advancing American Forests’ work in developing new approaches to the urban forestry worker shortage and social injustice.
“The TAZO Tree Corps is helping us turn this work into new economic opportunity for people from disproportionately impacted communities,” said Sarah Sewell, American Forests’ Director of Career Pathways, a program designed to get more people from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds into urban forestry careers. “And thanks to TAZO’s vision and support, we are beginning to replicate this comprehensive approach in cities nationwide, bringing us closer to our vision of achieving Tree Equity.