January 24, 2018

Tales by Trees is rooted in net positivity

The tale of Tales by Trees began with a captivating children's story.
The tale of Tales by Trees began with a captivating children's story.
Tales By Trees

Often not buying anything is deemed the eco-friendliest consumer choice. Tales by Trees wants to create products that do good instead of nothing.

Art and design, net positivity and Nordic forests. These three elements embody the essence of Tales by Trees.

“Every consumer choice has an impact,” founder and owner Markus Pyhältö says. “Most of the time, buying something means that natural resources are being used. Buying nothing would mean that nothing happens.”

Net positivity, as explained by authors and Tales by Trees’ advisors Oras Tynkkynen and Kati Berninger, challenges traditional ways of looking at corporate social responsibility. Instead of being less bad, companies can switch their focus to actually bettering things.

Tales by Trees leads by example. When buying one of its products, customers can be confident that the resources that went into the production process, like materials, logistics, transport and the rest of it, will be generously compensated.

The company’s products are made of wood, so in order to deliver its promise of net positivity, it looks at the wellbeing of forests in order to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. Using a custom-made ecological foot- and handprint calculator, Tales by Trees protects forests in Finland and plants trees in Africa through its partnerships with charitable organisations.

Markus Pyhältö

Markus Pyhältö

Tales by Trees

Pyhältö emphasises that it’s not just about giving back what you’ve taken. Tales by Trees counts the real environmental impact and then splashes a big extra on top. Whatever exceptional happens in the production chain, the effect always remains on the plus side for the environment.

It all began with a story

The trees’ tale dates back to 2012. One of the company’s artists, Iiro Küttner, happened to email Pyhältö about something totally unrelated, and just added a story he’d created to entertain his children on long train journeys to visit their grandmother.

The story really spoke to Pyhältö.

“I’ve read all kinds of texts in my life, and I can’t really explain what was so captivating about the The Carpenter,” he notes. “But it did stop me in my tracks and left me thinking.”

Now, Tales by Trees has published a series of three books. Pyhältö describes them as philosophical contemplations for adults, but in the form of illustrated children’s books.

The stories were the driving force for what is now known as the Tales by Trees’ concept. Buying the book, people receive not only the story, but also the notion that whatever went into the book’s existence has been paid back.

On top of the book trilogy, Tales by Trees has a design item called The Seed. According to Pyhältö, both products remove 30–50 times the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from their material extraction to end-of-life, and also protect 20–30 times the natural resources that were used.

In the future, the range will include high-quality design that draws inspiration from Nordic forests, be they made of wood composite or wood-based textiles.

No greenwashing, please

Pyhältö points out that the current level of consumption is not sustainable. The Seed is set to change that.

Pyhältö points out that the current level of consumption is not sustainable. The Seed is set to change that.

Tales by Trees

Pyhältö is aware that there are industries in which net positivity remains a pipe dream. However, he sees the direction as a huge opportunity for Finnish forestry and biotechnology, as wood-based alternatives to plastic and fabric are of growing interest – and Finland has all the skills.

He also points out that one of the principles of net positive business is that it’s not possible to plant trees to make up for the damage caused by using oil-based materials, for example.

“That’s greenwashing,” he points out. “You can’t harm something somewhere and then do good elsewhere and call yourself okay.”

Pyhältö also accentuates that Tales by Trees is not competing with environmental organisations and charities. It’s a commercial company with turnovers and revenues to keep an eye on.

And it sells. Tales by Trees’ recent Indiegogo campaign received orders from over 20 countries, and the vast majority of customers hails from the US.

Pyhältö hopes that Tales by Trees’ example attracts other companies to adopt more net positive approaches.

“We now act as the messenger,” he tells. “I don’t see that other net positive companies would compete with us at all. Having more firms and people on board would just help spread the word – and the good for us and future generations.”

Text: Anne Salomäki