Trees belong everywhere – especially in cities

7 min read | Karen Young | Article | Corporate social responsibility Sustainability Workplace | Wellbeing

It’s hard to imagine a world without trees. Deeply rooted in our culture and history, they provide a link between the past, present – and crucially – future. While we often picture trees belonging to the countryside, their place in the urban landscape is just as important. From improving well-being to protecting against flooding, trees are more vital than you might think.

  • Trees are crucial for our cities: they regulate carbon dioxide (CO2), filter harmful pollutants, improve our well-being, protect us against climate change, and boost wildlife.
  • The UK Charity, Trees for Cities, have planted over 1.5 million trees to date, creating greener and healthier spaces for communities.
  • During the 2022/2023 planting season Hays UK&I have contributed to the planting of 11,608 trees in a variety of Trees for Cities projects, with dozens of our employees volunteering their time to help plant trees and support communities.

Why do cities need trees?

They may not grow money, but trees provide an even more important resource: oxygen. The lungs of our towns and cities, these leafy wonders are also experts at soaking up CO2 emissions, with it being estimated that over 2.3 million tonnes of carbon is stored in London’s trees alone. It’s even thought this carbon storage could be worth £147 million to the UK’s economy – perhaps money does grow on trees after all.

It’s not only CO2 that trees help regulate, but harmful pollutants too. The importance of this cannot be overstated. A City Hall analysis revealed that 98% of schools in London are in areas with toxic air quality, with children growing up in the capital’s polluted areas showing significantly smaller lung volume. It’s not just London’s children that are affected though, with 3.1 million children across England going to schools in areas exceeding World Health Organization pollution limits. Simply put, more trees mean fewer pollutants and toxins being breathed in by young lungs.

Faced with more extreme weather patterns and accelerating climate change, trees are an important safeguard for our future. Acting as a natural barrier against flooding in urban areas covered with impermeable surfaces, it’s believed that they reduce 80% more surface water run-off compared to asphalt. In addition to absorbing water, trees can release it, which combined with their cooling shade helps to counter the urban heat island effect.

Perhaps most importantly of all, trees make us feel good. They – along with wider nature – have the power to alleviate stress, reduce blood pressure, and even increase anti-cancer cells. But not everyone living in urban environments has access to trees, missing out on a distinctly human need.

Trees for Cities are growing a sustainable future

Strategically planting trees plays a crucial role in a sustainable future – but it’s a largescale effort that requires involvement from as many people as possible.

Trees for Cities is the only UK charity working at a national and international level to improve lives by planting trees and enhancing green spaces in towns and cities. The charity has planted over 1.5 million trees to date, engaging over 140,000 volunteers. Their work demonstrates how great a social leveler nature is, bringing together people and communities to cultivate lasting change and rebuild lost connections with the environment.

Inspiring tomorrow’s generation

It’s the future generations that will be most affected by our changing climate; embedding a connection with the natural world from a young age – and providing inspiration to take action – is therefore key. That’s why Trees for Cities is working in partnership with schools around the country, forming a programme called Trees for Schools.

Trees for Schools transforms urban school grounds into greener, healthier places. Tarmacked areas are reimagined with trees, forest gardens, food-growing, outside classrooms, mini-forests, and wildlife habitats. In addition to improving air quality and supporting mental well-being, children are presented with new education opportunities at a critical time of their early development.

Hays colleagues visited President Kennedy School in Coventry earlier this year, a Futures Trust school. The team donated trees – and alongside Trees for Cities representatives – helped students to plant and spend time learning to care for them so the trees will thrive. Students were also set a ‘sustainability challenge’ to be delivered through the school’s eco-councils, enabling greater ownership over green choices.


What we’re doing to help

People and communities are at the heart of what we do, and we know the value of working for a better tomorrow. We’ve been partnered with Trees for Cities since January 2022, helping to breathe new life into our communities and urban environments. Since then, we’ve helped plant nearly 15,000 trees to projects across the UK – including London, Bristol, Cardiff, Dundee, Blackpool, Portsmouth, Hull, Birmingham and Bradford – with dozens of our employees volunteering at many of these locations.

We’re continuing our partnership with Trees for Cities throughout 2023, helping to deliver a packed tree-planting season. So far this year, Hays colleagues helped to plant over 3,500 trees at a community tree planting day at Caerwen Farm, outside of Cardiff, while also contributing to one of Trees for Cities’ ongoing projects at Horsenden Farm, London.

By supporting Trees for Cities, we’re not only creating greener spaces, but actively investing in communities around the UK. Whether it be staff volunteering days or contributions to tree-planting projects, we’re committed to cultivating a lasting green legacy for future generations.

About this author

Karen is a Director and recruiting expert at Hays Accountancy & Finance for UK&I. She provides strategic leadership to a team of over 300 accountancy and finance recruitment professionals across nearly 100 offices. With 25 years of finance recruitment experience, Karen has a track record of recruiting top finance talent for businesses across a range of industry sectors, and is a trusted industry voice on recruitment, career planning and market insights.

Karen also leads development and delivery of social and environmental purpose at Hays UK&I. This focuses on how the business supports local communities with a particular focus on improving skills and employability, as well as steps to safeguard the natural environment. Karen leads a Hays UK Charity partnership with End Youth Homelessness focusing on strategic input to the employability element of the EYH Independent Futures programme, that supports young people into work and independent living.

articleId- 57162194, groupId- 20151