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Dawn Redwoods and ESG



I planted my Dawn Redwood on a beautiful sunny day. 54 degrees, warm breezes, puffy cotton-clouds set against an azure sky…. I was inspired. The muse that urged me to plant what is arguably a magnificent tree with a remarkable story, wasn’t the breathtaking Spring weather. Rather, it was the calendar, and the month.


February 2020, to be precise.  North of the equator, we call that, you know, “Winter.”


Especially in Chicago.


That day, Lake Michigan sparkled in the sunlight as it cheerfully swelled OVER the part of the walkway that wasn’t actually supposed to be underwater. Earlier, I’d read about a Chicago Alderman proposing a climate emergency resolution in January. And on this beautiful faux-Spring day, emotions, experience, thoughts all came together. I felt the need for action and urgency. Resolute, I re-applied sunscreen against the now glaring sun, and walked the rest of the way home. OK, I didn’t have sunscreen, but I did cast a suspicious look towards the sun wondering if more of its radiation was getting through than normal.


But what could I specifically do?


I love trees and the previous week I had ordered two Metasequoia Glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwoods) saplings. So I planted a tree. Two to be specific. Living fossils, at one point this species was the most prolific tree on the planet. Like five-ish million years ago. And they had been around for over 70-90 million years previously. Shifting climate eliminated them so thoroughly that they were believed extinct until a single grove of these trees was rediscovered in 1941, in a remote region of China. It turns out this species is rockstar. Insect and disease resistant, growing close to two meters per year, and loving climate zones 4 through 8. How ironic and what timing for my Redwoods to arrive.


K8 Ventures builds companies, as you may know from my prior articles. I contemplated the types of companies we were building as I planted my two seedlings. ESG (environmental, social, governance), aka, responsible investing, is re-emerging and with leaders like Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock ($6.1T under management), advocating this direction, it’s not only about our individual habits but also about how executives decide to grow their businesses. Eyes open, we at K8 are looking at how we can build companies that meet and exceed customer and investor expectations, whilst contributing to our collective well-being. A particularly innovative venture fund I came across, is the Clean Energy Trust, located here in Chicago. If you want to learn more, there are tremendous online resources. In particular, I like how this Harvard Business Review article contextualizes the growing awareness and investment trends with senior executives in investment firms. For an ever growing list of right reasons ESG is the right way forward. Making a profit? Doing good? Yes. Those two can and should be hand in hand.


The picture in this article is one of my redwoods with the John Hancock in the background on a February day when it WAS (very appropriately) cold. Dawn Redwoods don’t grow to be quite that tall, but who knows? With the right growth environment this seed investment in CO2 capture, oxygen generation, and aesthetics, could yield massive healthy and clean returns.

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