From little seeds – great ideas grow

As part of Sonepar’s commitment to creating a more ethical and sustainable world, we give out the Colam Awards every year. These awards recognize initiatives organized by Group subsidiaries that have a positive impact on the environment, sustainable development, people or society as a whole.

One of the winners of the 2018 Colam award was Plantaton, an initiative organized by Vallen Mexico, which aims to encourage and teach conservation through the planting of endemic trees in urban green spaces. We spoke to Victor Manuel Martinez-Martinez, Marketing and Communications Manager, Vallen Mexico, and one of the organizers of Plantaton, about the project and its impact.

Hi Victor – congratulations on Vallen's recent award. Can you tell us more about Plantaton?

Victor Manuel Martinez-Martinez: Plantaton is a fairly new initiative. The objective is to help restore the balance in nature through the planting of endemic trees in open spaces, such as parks or public areas. In addition to tree-planting, we organize environmental education for local communities. The initiative began in 2017, and it’s already grown. We now have Plantaton days in various areas across Mexico throughout the year.

 

How did the idea come about?

VMM: Vallen started this initiative as a response to the major pollution problems in Mexico City. To combat these problems and raise awareness, we decided to bring our associates together to plant trees, because trees, like oceans, are filters that absorb CO2, and help mitigate pollution, while making the surrounding areas greener and more beautiful. Plantaton is also a great way to bring teams together to share in a positive activity that helps our communities. 

 

How do you know what sort of trees to plant?

VMM: We want to preserve the local environment by planting the correct tree in the right place, so we collaborate with the local environmental department. They help us identify what to plant and where. Endemic trees provide the best habitat for local insect and bird populations, as well as those migrating through the area, and they’re also more likely to survive and thrive.

And how do you choose where you plant?

VMM: We plant anywhere we can. However, we primarily focus on green spaces that already contain some trees, such as parks, community gardens, schoolyards, public plazas, universities, and even the grounds of public hospitals. We work hand-in-hand with the local government. They give us a list of parks that need trees, and we choose one or two for each Plantaton day.

 

How does Plantaton engage Vallen employees?

VMM: Plantaton is a family event. We send out emails with all relevant information – what’s involved, the times and places, and we encourage as many people as possible to take part. We like to involve people from all age groups, so we have children, parents, grandmothers and grandfathers, friends, and of course Vallen associates – a mix of personalities working together to improve the environment, while getting to know each other and gaining different perspectives of what Vallen is.

Involving families seems to be a major focus for Plantaton.

VMM: Involving families is a major goal for Plantaton, but we especially want to engage children. They are the perfect vehicle to spread a culture of sustainability, because children will encourage, push, and even pressure their parents to do something for nature. In 2017, when we finished Plantaton in Tampico, some of the children asked their parents to take them back to the park in order to care for the recently planted trees, giving them fresh water to grow correctly. When I heard that, I was happy to see how we were meeting our objective in many different ways.

 

How does the project fit into the broader CSR goals for Sonepar, Vallen and the region? 

VMM: This initiative is in line with the People and Planet pillars of Sonepar’s CSR strategy. More broadly, Plantaton can help Vallen and Sonepar contribute meaningfully to the 15th Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations, which focuses on the sustainable management of forests. Plantaton is an initiative that can be replicated or reproduced in other parts of the world. It’s easy to implement and most of all, it’s fun, so I hope the idea spreads wide and more and more teams get involved.