A Social Startup’s Green Business Model Revealed: Your Guide To Copying B’n’Tree One-To-One

by | Last updated Oct 21, 2020 | Hacks, Tips and Nature Knowledge | 0 comments

We often get asked how exactly the green business model behind B’n’Tree works. After all, planting trees for free sounds like magic. Unfortunately, this claim occasionally causes doubts whether B’n’Tree is a scam or legit.

Since trust built by transparency is what made B’n’Tree so successful to date, we created this in-depth article, unveiling our entire sustainable business strategy, telling you exactly how B’n’Tree works, and how we plant all those trees without charging you a single Cent for it.

We share with you how much planting a tree costs, why every booking counts and the one main criticism we occasionally hear.

After reading this post, you can found your own social startup and copy B’n’Tree one-to-one. We added a note on that below as well.

A Social Startup’s Green Business Model Revealed_ Your Guide To Copying B’n’Tree One-To-One on bedandtree

First Things First: What B’n’Tree Is

B’n’Tree is the travel platform that plants trees. For every booking that originates on bedandtree.com, we plant a tree – without any charge to the user. Cooperation partners include the world’s largest booking platforms, such as Booking, Skyscanner, Expedia, TripAdvisor and more.

You as potential user can plant a real tree with one single click of your mouse. We don’t ask you for money, your contact details or even your name.

All we ask you to do is to begin your bookings on bedandtree.com. We then plant one tree for you. Sounds like magic, doesn’t it?

Proof of our green business model. Another tree planted. And you still have as much money as you had before, right?
Proof of our green business model. Another tree planted. And you still have as much money as you had before, right?

Green Business Model Basics: How B’n’Tree Works

Spoiler alert: There’s no magic involved. Just hard work, sweat and trees.

As mentioned above, we have partnered with the world’s largest booking platforms, to offer you the full selection of holiday products.

With these cooperation partners we agreed on the following: Every time we send you paying customers, we get a small share of the revenue we create for you. We invest that share into planting trees.

This suggestion worked, because if we don’t send our partners any business, they won’t send us any money. In the end, they can only win. That’s why they accepted the proposal.

Best case scenario of a sustainable business model: Everybody profits, everybody smiles, everybody wins.
Best case scenario of a sustainable business model: Everybody profits, everybody smiles, everybody wins.

Why It Doesn’t Cost You A Single Cent To Plant Trees With B’n’Tree

Now you may wonder why our partners are paying us for planting trees for you, and how they finance it. After all, we promise that you don’t have to pay a single Cent for those trees, and that your booking costs remain exactly the same as always. So how come it doesn’t cost you a single Cent to plant trees with B’n’Tree?

Simply speaking, we are yet another marketing channel for our partners. If we don’t send them clients, they have to invest their money into TV ads, Google ads – or put it in their pockets as additional profits. We strongly believe that this money is best invested into planting trees.

Of course, we only receive our commission once our partners have been paid. If they don’t get paid, we don’t get paid. Simple. Fake bookings or canceled bookings don’t plant trees.

Green Business Model Advanced: The Commission Structure

In order to make sense of the above, we agreed with our partners that we will receive a percentage of the revenue we create for them. A fixed sum per booking would be risky for them, as we could send them clients that generate little revenue. Sustainable business models ensure that every partner of the agreement profits.

In plain words: The more money we generate for our partners, the more money we receive in commission.

The revenue share we receive varies from partner to partner and is usually between one and five percent of the total revenue. Due to our contracts we are not at liberty to disclose exact numbers.

Which leads to the conclusion that you should mainly tell your high-net-value friends and frequent business travelers about B’n’Tree. Business travelers, big families and people who love their luxury vacations are fantastic matches for B’n’Tree. The more money we make, the more trees we can plant.

That’s why there’s a second part to our commission structure agreements with our partners. And that part ensures that every booking counts.

Every booking counts, because every tree counts. No matter how small.

Social Startup Strategy: Why Every Booking Counts

Having said that, we do actually value every single booking that originates on B’n’Tree. And for several reasons.

  1. Firstly, as a young social startup we appreciate all the support we get.
  2. Secondly, we don’t want “traveling sustainably” to be a privilege for the rich. We want to make sustainable travel accessible and affordable for everyone. Therefore, we also partnered with Hostelworld. And that is why we don’t charge you a single Cent to plant trees for you.
  3. Last but not least, we agreed with our partners that the more bookings we send in total, the higher our commission percentage increases. Hence referring 100 high-value business traveler bookings for trade fairs in London, Paris and NYC becomes even more valuable when complemented by 500 dorm-room bookings from Thailand, Bolivia and Bali.

That means: Please tell everyone about B’n’Tree. Every booking counts. Because every tree counts. And we plant at least one tree per booking.

B’n’Tree plants one tree for every booking originating on bedandtree.com. Guaranteed!

Why We Promise 1 Tree Per Booking – And How We Keep That Promise

Our promise, as boldly stated right on top of our front page, is that we plant one tree for every booking originating on bedandtree.com – for free!

We state that because it’s tangible. Telling you that your booking supports rainforest reforestation efforts will leave you wondering what that actually means.

If you carefully read the last section on our green business model’s commission structure, you will have concluded that the amount of money we receive per booking varies. Hence you may wonder whether the costs per tree vary as well, since we always plant one tree per booking.

Yes, costs per tree do vary, depending on where you plant, when you plant, who you’re planting with and so on. More on how much one tree costs further below.

But there’s more. The full truth is: No, we don’t always plant one tree per booking. On average we plant more.

We say on average, because yes, there are booking commissions that are tiny enough to not pay for one entire tree. On the other hand, there are bookings that pay for a dozen trees.

We don’t pat rich folks on the shoulder, nor do we tell money-savvy backpackers to spend more of their hard-earned cash on accommodation instead of the life-changing experiences they’re after. Instead, we level things out and ensure to plant at least one tree for every booking that originated on bedandtree.com.

As stated above: Every booking counts. Please bear that in mind next time you think about “just a small booking”.

Your ‘just a small booking’ planted yet another tree. Thank you for that!

Green Business Model Insights: How B’n’Tree Plants Trees – For Free

Planting tens of thousands of trees takes a lot of hard work and a lot of money. So how come B’n’Tree claims to plant trees for free?

If you attentively read the article until here, you already concluded that planting trees is never free. Nothing in this world is. Things cost money, time, or both.

Planting trees with B’n’Tree is free for you, because it is paid for by the big booking platforms that we have partnered with. Their commission pays for the trees. You pay with a second of your time by investing that extra mouse click to begin your booking on bedandtree.com.

We pass our partners’ commissions on to our tree-planting partners. These partners take care of the hard work – the actual tree-planting.

Planting trees involves a lot of hard work. It also creates jobs and stable incomes for local people.

Who Plants All Those Trees?

Planting thousands of trees every month is no easy task. Sustainably caring for tens of thousands of trees is an even bigger challenge. Given the fact that B’n’Tree founder Chris does not exactly have a green thumb, planting all those trees would last forever. And those trees’ survival rates would be rather low.

Luckily, there are people out there who do have green thumbs, and who have specialized in planting trees. They are experts in growing trees and maximizing their survival rates by professionally caring for them for several years after planting them. B’n’Tree contracts these companies to turn all the travel-generated revenue into planting trees.

Our Tree-Planting Partners – And Why We Chose Them

Of course, there are also tree-planting companies that aren’t as awesome as they claim to be. We have tested a bunch and stuck with the best. Companies we currently plant with include Eden Reforestation Projects, Seedballs Kenya in cooperation with the Land and Life Foundation as well as One Tree Planted.

These companies cover the entire globe and manage hundreds of planting sites in dozens of countries. Between them, they have grown hundreds of millions of trees already. So yes, they know what they are doing.

The beauty of having partners all across the globe is that you can plant trees year-round. It’s important to us that our green business model is not just sustainable, but also season independent. When the monsoons hit Indonesia, we might be better off planting in Kenya. When it’s too hot and too dry there, we focus on reforesting Brazil. And so on.

Having various tree-planting partners on board also ensure we can always plant as many trees as we generated revenue for, even if that revenue peaks in certain months, like we reported e.g. in our Grow Show for February 2018.

If you’d like to know which countries we have helped reforest so far and what kinds of trees we are planting, please take a look at our tree-planting world map.

Reliable partners are key to the success of every social startup's green business model, and hence key to the success of B'n'Tree.
Reliable partners are key to the success of every social startup’s green business model, and hence key to the success of B’n’Tree.

Related Article: 3 hacks to cut costs while building a sustainable business.

How Much Does A Tree Cost?

One popular question we always hear is “How much does one tree cost?”. It’s a difficult question, since there are a lot of factors involved here.

As mentioned above, costs per tree vary, depending on where you plant them, when you plant them, who you plant them with and so on.

Planting Trees Yourself

If you were to take a seed from your local forest, plant it in your own backyard and water it occasionally, your costs would be close to zero.

Planting Trees At Scale

If you were to scale operations, you’d need to factor in land and labor costs. To maximize survival rates, you’d want to pre-grow these seeds in a tree nursery before planting them, then water and guard them for about three years to ensure the trees survive on their own. The best tree-planting partners achieve survival rates of up to 94% – which is outstanding! But, of course, such results cost a lot of labor.

Why B’n’Tree Plants Trees In The Tropics – And Not In Germany

Add up all these factors, and a German city like Wiesbaden charges 2,000 EUR for planting one single tree! That’s why we haven’t planted any trees in Germany to date.

Since our aim is to maximize global impact, we preferably plant trees in countries where land and labor costs are lower. These are mainly tropical countries, where trees also grow a lot quicker and hence absorb more CO2 in a shorter amount of time. The entire impact increases, while costs decrease.

How Much One Tree Costs – And How You Can Plant One Right Now

Trees in these countries cost a lot less in Wiesbaden. Planted at scale, one tree generally costs between two and twenty euros. On top of that you’d need to add taxes and operational costs, which is why companies such as Click A Tree sell trees for between five to ten euros. Other companies charge between 15 and 50 EUR for one tree, and probably have their reasons for that as well.

You can plant a tree right now, right from the comfort of your screen. Go try it. It costs one fiver.

That’s as much as most people carelessly spend at Starbucks every single morning or at McDonald’s every evening. A tree is much healthier for you and the planet, and much longer lasting. Think about that next time you think about fast food – and maybe opt for the tree instead.

Let’s do the math: Instead of planting one single tree in Wiesbaden, we can plant 200 trees in Brazil. Which option would you go for?

Planting at scale: Hundreds of trees beats planting single trees. The global impact is what matters.

Green Business Model Finances: How Is B’n’Tree Financed?

You may have seen claims that B’n’Tree invests 100% of its revenue into planting trees. Sounds a bit dubious, doesn’t it? Leaves the question how B’n’Tree is financed? Let us explain.

As investing 100% of the generated revenue into trees is not a sustainable business model, we split the finances part into two sections: The Social Startup part (aka now) and the Sustainable Business Model part (aka how B’n’Tree could be financed in the long run).

Financing A Social Startup: How B’n’Tree Is Financed Right Now

Yes, we currently do invest 100% of our revenue into planting trees. That may not continue until the end of time, but for the time being this is the case.

Chris Kaiser, the founder of B’n’Tree, works part-time as marketing consultant. This pays for his bills. And no worries, he’s not hungry.

Chris’ job as marketing consultant also takes him all over the planet, which is why most episodes of the Grow Show are recorded in different locations. His travel addiction is one of the reasons why he founded B’n’Tree. For more reasons, such as a super cute elephant baby, take a look at the About B’n’Tree page.

Everyone else supporting B’n’Tree does so voluntarily. Either to help make the world a better place, to gain experience in marketing and sales, or to have something meaningful to do. Mostly all three apply. In case that sounds like you, take a look at our meaningful job offers.

Founded under German law, as small startup we don’t have to pay taxes yet.

Investments into B’n’Tree such as keeping the website live, creating and distributing marketing material (have you seen and shared our cool posters already?), paying freelancers to solve problems whenever the B’n’Tree team is at its wits’ ends and spreading the word by visiting trade fairs and conferences are paid from Chris’ pocket. That’s how social startups start up.

B'n'Tree Founder Chris Kaiser at tree planting event in Kenya for bedandtree
Happ, not hungry: B’n’Tree Founder Chris Kaiser at tree planting event in Kenya.

Financing A Sustainable Business: How B’n’Tree Could Be Financed In The Future

Going forward, this may change. Chris may not want to be a marketing consultant forever, or some diligent workers want to support B’n’Tree full-time, and hence need to earn a living with it, or B’n’Tree grows big enough and has to pay taxes. Then the current revenue distribution will have to change.

We would not want to ask you for donations, as then you could greenify your travels by paying companies that offset travel emissions. We want to keep B’n’Tree and planting trees free of charge for you and we want to keep planting trees accessible for everyone. (Having said that: Should you have way too much money and are not sure what to do with it, please do get in touch.)

Hence, should for any of the above reasons we not be able to pour 100% of our profits into planting trees, we will re-think our cost structure and update this article. Options include renegotiating our commission share with our partners, selling ad space on our website, funding B’n’Tree by running other projects or by indeed only planting one tree per booking, not more, as we currently do.

Rest assured that we will keep the overhead at a minimum, no matter, what happens. And we will keep planting one tree per booking.

In case you’d like to support us in this mission, please help spread the word. The more people talk about B’n’Tree, the fewer people we have to hire to do that. The result will be more trees being planted with less money needed for bureaucracy.

Please help spread the word! A lot of people as well as our planet’s future depend on a green planet.

Why B’n’Tree Plants Trees

You may have wondered why B’n’Tree plants trees in the first place. None of the contracts with our partners legally bind us to do so, hence we could simply pocket all the profits and go travel ourselves.

We don’t. If you have read the About Us page, you know that B’n’Tree was founded to create habitat for elephants. Elephants are incredibly amazing creatures, and unfortunately are dying out rapidly due to the loss of habitat. Since elephants live in forests and savannahs, they need trees as habitat and food source. That’s why we plant trees – to save elephants.

B'n'Tree Chris Kaiser founder BedAndTree and his beloved elephants
Pure happiness in one single picture: Chris and his beloved elephants.

Further Benefits Of Planting Trees

Luckily, planting trees brings along a massive bunch of further benefits. Trees are not only habitat and food source for elephants, but also for a myriad of other animals, insects and plants. Looking at the alarmingly fast decreasing biodiversity on our planet, planting trees is one of the most powerful countermeasures we can seize to ensure humans are not alone on this planet by the end of this century.

In addition to this, trees actively fight climate change by storing CO2 and releasing oxygen. They protect smaller plants, live in amazing symbiosis with fungi, cool the Earth’s surface, prevent erosion, restore natural water cycles and do a huge lot more to ensure our ecosystem is working the way it is. Forget Captain America and Iron Man. The true saviors of our planet are trees.

Last but not least, planting trees creates job for local communities. These communities are in dire need of stable incomes and use their salaries to build houses and small farms, buy clean clothes and medical supplies or sending their children to school.

At times, we also plant trees with the help of schools, to educate the youngest in our society on the importance of sustainability and an intact ecosystem. They grasp the importance and urgency of this crucial matter a lot quicker than most adults do.

Young boys participating in a tree-planting event. The young generation is a lot more aware of the urgency the climate crisis brings about.

Green Business Model Criticism: Is B’n’Tree Selling Indulgences?

The one (and luckily only) criticism we heard so far is people opining we’d be selling indulgences. After all, planting one tree doesn’t offset the environmental damage a long-haul-journey to Australia causes, right?

Right. One tree only offsets a small part of the CO2 emissions of a flight to Australia, not to speak of other environmental damage.

But let’s be honest: Would you travel to Australia only because we plant a tree for you? Or would you travel to Australia anyway, because you want to, and by booking via bedandtree.com make your travel more sustainable than if you wouldn’t book via bedandtree.com?

B’n’Tree doesn’t claim to offset all travel-generated carbon emissions, nor do we claim to make your journey perfectly environmentally friendly. If you wan to offset all your travel-related carbon emissions, we know you will find companies who offer exactly that.

At B’n’Tree, we believe that people love to travel, and that people will always travel. However, we also know that not everyone offsets their travel-related carbon emissions. So planting a tree for every booking they make is better than not planting a tree.

We’re a social startup that makes traveling a tad bit more sustainable. Not more, but also not less.

Ideally, yes, people should travel less, and when they travel, they should offset their CO2 emissions.

But in addition, you can still plant that tree with B’n’Tree. It doesn’t cost you a thing, so there’s no reason not to do it.

One tree alone won’t save the planet. But many trees combined will.

Why Are We Telling You This?

As mentioned at the beginning, revealing our entire green business model in so much detail is enough information for you to copy B’n’Tree one-to-one. So why are we sharing all these insights with you?

To build trust. If you don’t trust B’n’Tree, you won’t use it, and you won’t recommend it to your family, friends and co-workers. That’d be a big shame, since we can plant a lot more trees if you trust, support and promote us.

We have nothing to hide and are hence open to share what we do. We believe that sharing information empowers us all. You can learn from us, and surely you know a lot of stuff we can learn from you. So please do share with us as well.

Social Startup Green Business Model Marketing: Share this image to help plant more trees. It's free!
The perfect image to share on social media and via email right now. Right-click, download, share. Left-click to see the entire media gallery.

Will You Copy B’n’Tree’s Green Business Model?

Yes, you could copy us. You could either copy B’n’Tree one-to-one or copy the green business model behind B’n’Tree for a similar cause.

Then what? Then you’d plant trees, and we move on to pastures new. In the end, our goal is to plant a huge ton of trees to help save our planet. Whether you do that, or we do, is not of importance. The important matter is that it happens, not who makes it happen.

In a perfect world, our partners such as Booking.com or Expedia would start planting trees themselves. Their impact would be even bigger than what B’n’Tree can achieve. Then we can close this website and move on to the next business idea. Yes, we still have a few dozen of those in the back of our heads.

To get there, here is what to do: Use bedandtree.com for every single booking you make. Save B’n’Tree in your bookmarks and use it as an app, so you’ll never forget to plant trees when going travel.

And make sure your family, friends and co-workers do the same. The more impact we have, the more attention we gain from the big guys – and the more likely it becomes they may adopt tree-planting as a green business strategy of their own.

Apart from enabling you to copy us, this post was written to show that making the world a better place is not rocket science. We bet you can come up with an even better green business model that helps save our planet, e.g. by saving endangered animal species, freeing our oceans from plastic, making international corporations pay their taxes or stopping real estate speculators from becoming presidents.

If we can be of any assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. One thing is for sure: We need to stand together to save our planet.

Our time is limited. Now is the time to act.

Green Business Model put into practice: Tree-planting action in Latin America.

How You Can Help Save The Planet – Right Now

Whether you found your own green startup or not, right now the very least you can do to help protect our planet is to spread the word. On Facebook, Instagram, via email or offline in real life.

Share this article, print this poster and post our website all over social media.

Our planet is eternally grateful for your support.

More About Green Business Models And Social Startups

Are you missing any information? Do you have any open questions on our sustainable business strategy? Please share them in the comments below or join our Facebook discussion on our green business model and social startups. Every insight is welcome!

Furthermore, sign up for our newsletter GROW to never miss any updates on green business strategies, social startup insights as well as great green news from across the globe. We even plant one tree for every new subscriber!


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