|Title||Trees for Life|
|Revenue Model||Ecotourism to a rewilding centre, sale of carbon credits, donations|
|Private Investment/Finance Structure||Retail bond via Triodos crowdfunding platform|
|Public/Philanthropic Investment||Donations, Funding support from NatureScot, European Development Fund, National Lottery Heritage Fund, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the Audemars Piguet Foundation, SSE Sustainable Development Fund, FERN Community Funds and the Garfield Weston Foundation.|
|Env/Social Impact||Rewilding and reforestation of Scottish Highlands, shared profits to support community based nature projects, education and upskilling on rewilding and reforestation.|
The Highlands of Scotland have by far the widest range of flora and fauna in Britain, yet even so there has been significant biodiversity lost due to deforestation and a change in upland land management to large scale sport shooting and deer and sheep grazing that began in the 1700s.
For example, the unique habitat of the Caledonian Forest once covered most of Highland Scotland – a huge wilderness of around 15,000 square kilometres. Today only around 1% of the original Caledonian Forest remains.
This deforestation has caused a cascade of knock-on effects in addition to biodiversity loss and carbon capture such as the acidification of soils, soil erosion that, in turn, silts up rivers and lochs, loss of salmon spawning ground and flooding.
Trees for Life is a small charity working on rewilding the highlands of Scotland (including reforestation through the planting of nearly two million native trees) as well as community support and development established in 1993.
In 2021 the charity raised £2 million through a nine-year retail bond promoted on Triodos’ crowdfunding platform, in order to invest in a rewilding centre that will help generate revenues to support its conservation work.
In 2008 Trees for Life acquired a 10,000 acre estate at Dundreggan as a flagship site for its rewilding ambitions thanks to some significant donations. In the early years, the charity struggled to cover the running costs of the tree nursery, volunteering programme, centre and land management. Native trees cost from £0.35p to £0.80p per tree depending on species and sapling height while rarer species might cost £1.50. At the same time, planting costs using hand mounding vary from location to location but tend to be around £0.85 per tree.
Trees for Life considered various revenue generating projects to pay for the costs, including running a caravan park and the introduction of hydro or wind energy.
The charity then explored the sale of carbon credits and now uses the Woodland Carbon Code for selling carbon sequestered at Dundreggan through natural regeneration. Its early foray into carbon has enabled the charity to develop a small for-profit carbon credit advisory business using the skills it has gained in its own journey to advise landowners in the Highlands who are wishing to transform their land.
A high carbon price of £50 (Pending Issuance Unit price at November 2022) has been achieved at Trees for Life because of the narrative of rewilding, biodiversity and restoration of land. The charity’s intention is to transfer £13.33/tonne from each sale to local community organisations to spend on projects that relate to the land and nature.
To support its work for the long term, Trees for Life developed plans to construct the world’s first rewilding visitor centre at the Dundreggan estate. This will enable the charity to engage a larger, more diverse audience with the natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands; and inspire and educate more people on rewilding and the restoration of the Caledonian Forest. Vitally, it will also generate an income which can ensure that Trees for Life’s rewilding work at Dundreggan is sustainable.
The charity is well-placed to attract visitors as Dundreggan is on the main road from Inverness to Isle of Skye and very near Loch Ness. It is expected to welcome over 70,000 visitors annually by 2030, and benefit the local community and economy by providing jobs and attracting more visitors to the area. A 40-bed accommodation facility was also constructed to allow for longer stays, and educational and volunteering experiences.
Dundreggan Rewilding Centre, Paul Campbell Photography
The rewilding centre and accommodation facility were opened as originally scheduled in April 2023.
The total construction costs for the project were expected to be around £6 million. This was funded through a combination of grant funding, donations, the charity’s cash reserves and a £2 million bond promoted through Triodos’ crowdfunding platform.
Retail bond terms
The bond offering was launched 13 September 2021 with a £2 million target and closed less than 48 hours later with the target achieved. The minimum investment was £50 and the average investment amount was £4,800. Some 8% of investors are based in Scotland.
The bonds offer a return of 6% a year to investors and are also eligible to be held in a Triodos Bank Innovative Finance ISA which means bond interest payments will be received tax-free.
For Trees for Life, the debt is repayable in four annual instalments from 2027 to 2030 that will be paid back from cash reserves. The projections assume that the rewilding centre will provide a sustainable recurring income for the charity (some £1.5 million in annual income by 2030).
- Restoring forest biodiversity in the Scottish Highlands, British Ecological Society, 2021
- The Impact and Management of Deer in Scotland, Reforesting Scotland
- Trees for Life website
- Triodos Bank Trees for Life bond offer document
- Interview with Alan McDonnell, Trees for Life
Last updated: 06/06/2023