Money doesn’t really grow on trees—but one German company, Forest Finance, offers something similar: sustainable forest and agroforestry projects to investors keen on restoring forests and fighting climate change, while making a return on investments. REVOLVE caught up with the company’s founder, Harry Assenmacher, to learn more.
Forest Finance celebrates 25 years of doing business in 2019. How did the idea of forest investment come about, and what have you achieved?
The idea stems from a rather personal practicality. Many years ago, my pension did not look very good and I wanted to build something that could become a part of it later. Back in the 1990s, I had worked for the German Association for Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND) and had been in contact with forest enterprises in the tropics. One was in Panama, where I had been invited to see their projects. I learned the concept of establishing “mixed forests” – where only a selection of mature trees is cut and sold – allowing for a functioning forest to always remain. I liked this approach and used it to reforest the first three hectares of land I owned in Panama. The idea of creating a forest was welcomed with enthusiasm by friends and colleagues, and more people wanted to do the same which led to the idea of offering forest financing in Germany.
We initially offered a product with at least one hectare of forest, but I wanted to offer small-scale investors the possibility to become a forest owner. I created the TreeSavingsPlan that was offered online in 2003 already. Our mission was – and still is – to buy degraded land and to reforest it with local species to recreate indigenous forest. We are the first company in Panama, whose forests are FSC-certified since 1997.
Our mission was – and still is – to buy degraded land and to reforest it with local species to recreate indigenous forest.
In 2007, we bought a forest management company in Panama and went from forest investors to forest managers. At this point we developed our own forest investment products which led to the addition of cocoa plantations (i.e. agroforestry) to our portfolio and Green Acacia in Colombia. Since 2018, we now offer our newest agroforestry product: investments in organic agriculture for producing olives and dates in Morocco.
After 25 years, we have managed the investments of over 20,000 clients with a total investment of nearly $100 million. We are active in Panama, Vietnam, Colombia, Peru and Morocco, and have reforested more than 8,000 hectares of land and have sustained over 2,000 hectares of protected area, including mangroves in Panama. We have planted over 10 million trees globally.