• Business Business

Mastercard is planting millions of trees around the world — here's what you need to know

This should help promote biodiversity, mitigate polluting gases in the atmosphere, and reduce soil erosion.

This should help promote biodiversity, mitigate polluting gases in the atmosphere, and reduce soil erosion.

Photo Credit: iStock

As the effects of rising global temperatures accelerate, experts are working overtime to stop our planet's rapid overheating — and Mastercard's Priceless Planet Coalition is getting in on the action.

What's happening?

Mastercard's Priceless Planet Coalition is on a mission to restore 100 million trees around the world by 2030. This should help promote biodiversity, mitigate polluting gases in the atmosphere, reduce soil erosion, and improve the communities that live in or near reforested areas — to name just a few benefits.

By teaming up with more than 150 corporate partners, as well as the global nonprofits Conservation International and the World Resources Institute, the coalition can collaborate with local communities and stakeholders and employ science-based best practices to choose the most effective locations for planting trees

While the Priceless Planet Coalition has projects worldwide, in the U.S., it's focused on reforesting old coal mine sites in Appalachia. Planting specific species that are declining in the area will enhance forest resiliency as well as provide food and protection for wildlife like natural pollinators, which our food supply depends on. 

The U.S.-based project aims to plant 100,000 trees, which will create jobs and help revitalize the local economy that has been impacted by the coal industry's decline. 

Why is the initiative important? And what are the pitfalls?

Major financial institutions generally have a reputation for overly financing and thus enabling fossil fuel companies to maintain and expand their operations, but Mastercard has generally earned a solid reputation on climate impact and sustainability, even allowing customers to track the impact of their spending.

With that context and the fact that planting 100,000 trees would provide a legitimate impact over merely purchasing carbon credits that may or may not provide true value, this project should be safe to classify as meaningful rather than greenwashing, while at the same time never absolving a company from pursuing other sustainability practices.

Trees are carbon sinks, meaning they absorb more planet-warming carbon from the atmosphere than they produce. Because of this, restoring forests is a great way to slow the overheating of our planet. For example, Conservation International said that protecting and restoring tropical forests could provide up to 30% of all global action needed to stop rising temperatures in their tracks.

Unfortunately, as important as it is for big brands to make eco-friendly initiatives, the grass isn't always greener where trees are planted. The New York Times reported that if done poorly, mass tree planting with the wrong trees in the wrong locations can do more harm than good because of reduced biodiversity. This means that the Priceless Planet Coalition will need to rely on its network of experts to ensure long-term forest stewardship.

Additionally, the coalition has had to push back its target date from 2025 to 2030. As of the end of 2023, the coalition has funded the restoration of 17 million trees — 12 million of which have been planted so far.

What's Mastercard's overall sustainability plan? 

As one of the largest payment tech companies in the world, Mastercard has the opportunity to lead the way when it comes to sustainability and our wallets. It aims to reach net-zero greenhouse gas pollution by 2040 (across Scopes 1, 2, and 3, which represent direct, energy-related, and supply-chain emissions) and has already switched to 100% renewable energy for its operations. 

In addition to the Priceless Planet Coalition, Mastercard has launched a sustainability innovation lab and a personalized carbon calculator. It is also working with card providers to make credit and debit cards out of recycled or bio-sourced materials. 

Bottom line: Climate solutions don't always need to be huge pie-in-the-sky innovations. On-the-ground tactics like using a sustainable-friendly credit card or planting native trees can also be extremely effective, especially when we're talking *100 million* trees.

Join our free newsletter for cool news and actionable info that makes it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider