IBM volunteers begin reforesting to help Costa Rica become carbon neutral

Story of service • Costa Rica • August 2013

IBMer Alejandro Dobles and Carlos Escobar.
IBMer Alejandro Dobles and Carlos
Escobar celebrate planting tree number
1650 – the last one – during Seeds of
Knowledge’s first reforestation session in
Alejandro Dobles, a senior SLA business analyst for IBM Costa Rica, has a deep interest in learning all he can about carbon neutrality and green business initiatives. He cites a quote that motivates him, “In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”

It is with this spirit – and in line with Costa Rica’s initiative to become carbon neutral by 2021 – that Alejandro proposed the Seeds of Knowledge project as part of a best practice project to transform IBM Costa Rica into an entity that provides carbon neutral services. “One of the steps to promote carbon neutrality is to create carbon sinks through reforestation of identified and controlled areas. Seeds of Knowledge fits perfectly into the equation,” Alejandro says.

Alejandro worked with Fundación Arboles Mágicos to develop the Seeds of Knowledge project. Fundacion Arboles Magico's is a not-for-profit organization looking to promote the conservation and importance of trees. By sharing the tree's spectacular characteristics, history, relationship, role, and importance to society, the organization looks to strengthen people's view of trees, at the same time promoting the conservation of native species through reforestation, environmental awareness and education.

“I first was introduced to Arboles Mágicos at a carbon neutral wood fair. Our relationship with them is one of the pillars of the project,” says Alejandro, who along with more than 140 volunteers from IBM Costa Rica worked throughout 2012 to promote the conservation and importance of trees. The first phase of the project was environmental awareness and education. IBM volunteers used dynamic presentations and exercises to reach almost 500 children in 2012. The second phase focused on reforestation and included two tree-planting projects.

Two epic planting crews

Alejandro attracted more than 100 volunteers to help with two different reforestation projects. He says, “I tried to communicate to the volunteers all the details of the work we were going to do, from the species of trees, reforestation area, even the shirt they were going to wear. IBMers have that special commitment; these activities make you proud of being an IBMer.”

In the first phase of reforestation activity, IBM connected two ecosystems by planting 1650 trees and creating a biological corridor to help protect a river conservation area.

In the second phase, IBMers planted an additional 2,000 trees. However, only 40 volunteers showed up – and one of those was Alejandro’s father. “We were 40 volunteers with 2000 trees to plant, and I was worried that we were not going to reach the goal. But, my father told me to not worry, that it was not a matter of the number of people, but their commitment and, that if they were here, it was because they were truly committed. It turned out to be true – we planted all 2000 trees and finished one hour ahead of schedule!”

Delivering a different perspective

In addition to helping with reforestation projects, IBM has also given project management education sessions to Arboles Mágicos and Alejandro has worked closely with the board. He attended the annual strategic planning session for Arboles Mágicos, actively participating in the development of the organization’s annual plan. “My IBM business experience was very valuable, bringing to the table my mindset of working at a multinational company, especially a company so committed to society and the environment. It was a very valuable session for me, as well, as I got to interact with key stakeholders from Arboles Mágicos.”

Arboles Mágicos founder and director, Giancarlo Pucci, says, “It has been a pleasure to work with IBM. From the active participation of its volunteers to the education sessions, which have given us tools to continue to improve our processes, IBM has helped contribute to the success of our organization. But, the most satisfactory feeling is to see the commitment of IBM employees to making this world more balanced.”

Alejandro closes with a final thought about actively partnering with Arboles Mágicos, “I believe the program has become stronger after working with IBM. Through IBM networking we got together two not-for-profit organizations – Arboles Magicos in Costa Rica and Rooted in Hope in the United States. These two groups exchanged ideas and are planning possible projects together.”

Alejandro and his fellow IBM volunteers in Costa Rica working with Seeds of Knowledge are winners of a 2012 IBM Volunteer Excellence Award which recognizes IBM employees and teams who best exemplify the IBM values of dedication, innovation and trust through their volunteer efforts. Seeds of Knowledge also received the Royal Guayacan award from Arboles Mágicos, the highest recognition given by the organization.

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