Merit Valdsalu: people may fight for survival 50 years from now

Merit Valdsalu: people may fight for survival 50 years from now
Published: 25. May 2023
Categories: Interview

Merit Valdsalu is the co-founder and CEO of the greentech company Single.Earth. Together with an international team, she has undertaken an enormous and utterly admirable, perhaps the most important, challenge – building a nature-based economic model to ensure the sustainability of our planet. 

Merit is an entrepreneur with a strong social conscience who has been involved in creating and developing several companies over the years. However, as a child, she dreamt of moving to the countryside becoming a writer, or a teacher. “Although, scientists already knew about climate change back then, it wasn’t widely known,” Merit notes. Her latest project, Single.Earth, is a science-based tool that allows everyone to contribute to environmental protection. The company’s mission is to help preserve existing ecosystems by making nature conservation profitable for land and forest owners. To achieve this, the company has developed the MERIT token, the world’s first nature-backed currency.

Merit’s drive to change the world stems from her upbringing. “When I wanted to go to the zoo or the circus as a child, my father explained to me that animals want to live in freedom, in the nature, not in cages or circus arenas to entertain people. That’s not natural. I probably learned from such conversations what the true relationship between humans and nature should be,” says Merit.

What can entrepreneurs do today to help save the planet?

Firstly, every company should assess its environmental impact – on climate, biodiversity, and ecosystems. Everything we do affects nature and the environment around us, but many businesses do not measure or consider this in their products and services.

Secondly, companies need to start contributing to nature conservation. Half of the world’s economy depends directly on natural resources. To ensure their sustainability and regeneration, active contributions to nature conservation are necessary.

How can individuals contribute?

The most important thing for individuals is to understand their power in making the entire economy more sustainable. The less people consume products and services with a large ecological footprint, the less companies will bring them to the market. The more consumers prefer sustainable solutions, the greater the interest of companies in creating such solutions.

Climate change, nature conservation, and environmental protection are topics that primarily concern individuals because the consequences affect us as human beings. That’s why Single.Earth introduced a solution designed specifically for individuals to directly finance nature conservation to landowners and receive a virtual token in return.

Why do people find it so challenging to make sustainable decisions and maintain habits?

There are many temptations. We live in a very strong consumer culture, where people constantly have the need for something new. Companies want to sell more and more and influence people through marketing and advertising.

How big is the Single.Earth community today?

As of today, our community consists of hundreds of landowners and individuals, and the first companies have also joined. Our community is growing day by day.

What is the impact of it, and is it possible to measure it?

The easiest way to measure the impact of our community is in hectares. We currently have nearly 500,000 hectares of biodiverse forests on our platform that we protect, including rainforests in Brazil and old forests in Estonia and other parts of Northern Europe.

How well have MERIT tokens been received? Where and how are they mostly used?

There was an immediate interest in MERIT tokens because individuals haven’t had many opportunities until now to contribute to biodiversity conservation or climate goals. The interest from companies is also growing due to upcoming Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) regulations. The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive aka CSRD will be applicable in the European Union in 2024, which will make the environmental impact of companies more measurable and transparent.

What will the future of our planet be like in 50 years?

It entirely depends on our current decisions. If we continue on our current course, the future is very bleak. In the darkest scenarios, people around the world will be fighting for survival. If we radically change course right now, we can save ourselves from the worst outcomes and live in harmony with nature in 50 years. This is where we do not consume more than our planet’s ecosystems can sustain.

Interviewer: Kerttu Kongas

Merit will talk about achieving maximum impact in nature conservation during the Impact Day festival in Tallinn on October 5th-6th. 

The project is supported by ESTDEV – Estonian Centre for International Development

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