How it all started.
A long time ago in a land far away ……. 2005 in Thailand to be precise, I had been recruited to head up a listed forestry management company. The Chairman professed that they had adopted a triple bottom line principle (People, Profit, Planet) the trees we were planting were helping the planet and the focus quite rightly for the shareholders was on profit and not on people. I felt as though there was potentially more we could do and I floated the idea past the Chairman diverting a percentage of funds and setting up a not for profit entity to focus on the reforestation of degraded land and sustainable development. The concept was met with disdain as he retorted I would never get anyone to donate money to plant trees! This was akin to showing a red rag to a bull and the seed was planted! A seed that would grow into the mighty oak tree that we now know as the PATT Foundation.
As the Chairman and myself could not see eye to eye on a number of issues, I exited the company and set about forming my own forestry management company. Although at the same time I was hoping to do more for community forestry and reforestation in general. I joined a group of entrepreneurs who formed part of the XL Results Foundation and was introduced to Roger Hamilton & Dave Rogers and I continued to explain my vision at networking breakfasts and talking to people about my plan.
Another astute member of XL was an Australian gentleman by the name of Paul Dunn who offered me some very profound words, ‘with attraction you will get traction’. He was totally correct as I continued to preach my message, that it took only a minute for a tree to be chopped down but many years for it to grow back and that was the disparity. Many organisations were aiming to protect forests but at that time not many were putting the trees back and it was this message that was gaining us the traction.
At that time two of my good mates in Bangkok from the ‘Southerners’ Rugby Club could see what I was trying to achieve and Chris Doherty started out helping me out a few days a week, eventually coming onboard full time and Neil Smith also joining the team to help us with our education program. I have to admit to being a little bit proud when Chris went on to join Ernst & Young in San Francisco and carve out a career for himself in sustainability and the carbon market.
On the 27th May 2006, we gathered a group of family and friends and took a 7-hour minibus journey to Sangklaburi, Kanchanaburi province, Thailand to carry out our first tree-planting project with a local organisation, Baan Unrak School and Children’s Home. The ‘Baan Unrak Forest and Nursery Project’ was supporting tree planting in rural Thailand and with the support of XL Results Foundation Magazine, we supplied 500 fruit and teak trees to the orphanage. Dave Rogers and his son joined us from Singapore more than offsetting his carbon footprint for the journey. The long walk up the hill was so worthwhile when we saw the smiles from children and local villagers who helped to plant trees on that day. Seeing my own kids planting with the kids at the orphanage had a profound effect on my own values, I could see that you didn’t need money to be happy. It was also endearing to see Lauryn (5) and Oliver (2) getting their hands dirty and planting trees that would provide food and a source of income to the orphanage in years to come.
The seed had been watered and the PATT Foundation was born.
I had learnt an important lesson from Roger Hamilton that has stuck with me throughout. The most important thing we could give is our ‘time’. Money loses value as you grow older, yet time is a finite resource that becomes so important the older you get as it’s like the sand of time in an egg timer, it will eventually run out.
With mentoring from Roger and funding from XL we were able to launch our ‘Carbon Free’ program on our first anniversary. We set about creating a website with the help of Nick Greenwood from 4B network, allowing people to offset their carbon emissions via an online donation and I do believe we were one of the first charities to offer this.
PATT was formed in 2005 and we received official Charity status in the UK with the help of Michael Harbottle (lawyer) around a year later. PATT had started to grow!
At the XL Results Foundation Entrepreneur Business School (EBS) in 2007, I met a number of people who were instrumental in the growth of the organisation with Liz Grey and Daniel Priestly bidding furiously against each other for the first carbon-free life credit at a charity auction in Bali. Liz went on to help us produce an album of music by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra called Universal Chill that was sold to raise money for the charity. Universe Chill Cover JPEG in artwork
I want to thank everyone who came along on that first project as without their help and the financial assistance from The XL Results Foundation and its members as none of our work would have been possible and for that, I am eternally grateful.
Baan Unrak Plating team: Debbie Oliver & Lauryn Steel, Chris Doherty, Neil & Tuktik Smith, Dave & Justin Rogers, Alan Johnson, Marcus Karlson, (Burmese forestry guy), Scott Minteer, Wendy?