GCash Forest Launch: Tree By Tree For Long-Term Sustainability


Most people want to make a change, but how many of them actually do?

According to a survey conducted by GCash among its users, 90 percent of millennials want to help out and make a change in the Philippines. However, it was found that only 10% of them turn these intentions into concrete actions.

According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Forest Management Bureau (FMB), our country is losing 47,000 hectares of forest cover annually: this means that we will need to recover 1.2 million hectares of forest lands by 2022 to prevent landslides and ensure water availability. In other words, through the rapid effects of deforestation, we are losing the biodiversity that sustains our livelihood. In connection with these, the Philippines has also been reported as the most susceptible country to the adverse effects of climate change. How is the 10% minority of millennials supposed to shoulder all these environmental burdens on their own?

In order to make change easy and accessible to all, GCash launched GCash Forest on June 25, 2019, at Green Sun Hotel. GCash Forest is a platform that aims to combat the effects of climate change through cultivating a more sustainable lifestyle among its users: they can collect “green energy” by using the app frequently, and their sustainable actions (e.g. riding a bike or walking instead of driving or commuting) will grow into a virtual tree. Eventually, they can accumulate enough green energy to plant a tree in real life.

With performances of bluebirds to the “Colors of the Wind”, a forest on loop projected on all four walls of the venue, and the sound of actual rain pattering against the roof, the GCash Forest launch truly was a celebration of biodiversity as well as of personal initiative to change the way we live.

In the fight against deforestation and climate change, we must promote sustainability by changing our everyday behavior. Continuity is key, so that the small actions we do every day to preserve our environment add up to one big observable change; similar to planting a tree. As it was said during the GCash Forest launch, what is essential is not merely to plant a tree, but to watch it grow.

According to Anthony Thomas, President and CEO of Mynt, GCash Forest aims to promote sustainable behavior by enabling its users to see the impact of their actions in the form of a virtual seedling that grows into a real tree; users can even choose the species of the trees they want to plant at the Ipo watershed. But progress does not end there: just as they were able to witness the growth of their virtual trees, GCash Forest users will also receive fun facts and updates on the growth of their trees on their GCash apps.

In just 365 days, GCash Forest hopes to plant 365,000 trees. How will this be possible? As explained by one of the speakers at the GCash Forest launch, the app also entails a Plant with a Community feature, which enables users to share (and steal) green energy with their friends. Just as this GCash initiative is a result of collaboration among government organizations, non-government organizations, and international organizations, i.e. the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through The Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN), growing a virtual tree and the eventual real-life tree is a result of collaboration between individuals.

GCash Forest was inspired by Alipay’s Ant Forest, an initiative of Ant Financial, which enabled more than 500 million users to plant 100 million real trees and offered a shared vision of development which was both sustainable and inclusive. Indeed, as mentioned earlier, GCash Forest has the support of the Philippine government: Department of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. recognized that this GCash campaign is the first step of the digitization mission envisioned by the Department of ICT for sustainable national development.

As stated in a message from Vice-President Leni Robredo, GCash “harnesses” technology for good: for the preservation of our environment, for the creation of jobs among the poorest of the poor, and for the accomplishment of a mission we can all undertake together. In this way, GCash Forest makes environmental initiative appealing to millennials, the future leaders of our generation, by seizing on their omnipresent devices and utilizing these for change: environmental action is just a click away on the GCash Forest app.

A change in habits gradually creates a change in lifestyle. As Enrique Lopez, President of ABS-CBN Publishing quoted during the GCash Forest Launch: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Grow one among 365,000 trees with GCash Forest in the fight against climate change and deforestation.