Grant Powell MBCS spoke to Bernard Pender, CEO and founder of Cloudforests, to learn about a major project that is bringing likeminded businesses together in support of a greener world.

Cloudforests operates as a social enterprise with a primary focus on sustainability and regrowth. With 5 sites established along Ireland’s beautiful Wild Atlantic Way, the initiative looks at ways to enhance biodiversity and encourage the planting of many varieties of trees, purely for the benefit of the planet. Aligned with nine of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, climate change and environmental protection forms the very core of the project.

Can you explain how the Cloudforests project began?

Several years ago, my work with a video surveillance company involved me in a project which oversaw the installation of a number of video cameras in large sections of forest to safeguard against fly tipping, trespassing and criminal damage. In 2020 I found myself working again with the forestry sector. With climate change becoming such a major concern on a global scale, I decided that I wanted to use the extensive knowledge and experience that I had gained to develop my own site. My business partners and I created Cloudforests using our own reserves to focus on climate change and environmental protection. To date we have sourced 5 separate sites along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way, and have planted trees and looked at ways to enhance biodiversity at each location.

What outcomes have you seen as a result of your efforts so far?

From an environmental perspective, just one of our forests covers 12 hectares and can absorb 120 tonnes of carbon per annum. When you consider that a typical family car emits 4.5 tonnes of carbon within this same timeframe, we are removing the emissions of roughly 27 cars per annum at just one site. We strive to run as a circular economy, eliminating waste and pollution by keeping products and materials in use. Our sites have generated considerable interest from businesses asking how they can get involved. At first, because of my own background, these businesses were primarily those working in the field of physical security — involved with, for example, security cameras and access control devices. Increasingly we are seeing interest from IT firms, building developers and many other industries and sectors, all wishing to play a part in helping the planet.

What are the benefits of partnering with technology companies?

As a social enterprise focused on climate change in the digital age, we want to tap into the expertise of partner businesses to use elements of their technological solutions and put them to use for the benefit of the planet. Network camera specialists Axis Communications, for example, provided many of the rugged outdoor-ready network cameras that we use for security around our five Cloudforests sites, as well as for live-streaming purposes. Elsewhere, our partnership with SpaceX has resulted in vastly improved streaming capabilities thanks to their Starlink satellite networks. We aim to make use of further tools, technologies and techniques from our partner base to improve our work over time.

Your relationship with your partners has prompted an initiative called CoolPartners. Can you tell us more?

As more organisations began to take a keen interest in our activities we decided to offer a credible plan around afforestation, conservation and climate education. Businesses that join us are known as our CoolPartners because they are essentially helping to cool the planet by agreeing to take a stand against global warming.

By coming together to support our cause, organisations are not only demonstrating that they can offset the carbon that they generate day to day, but are also actively playing their role in combatting climate change, supporting nature and making real environmental impact. And our partner businesses really believe in it. For them, it is not a box-ticking exercise to prove that they have green credentials, but rather a long-term commitment to demonstrate that they care about the planet and its future, and are willing to take steps to slow down or reverse some of the damage caused by our modern ways of living and working.

How has the CoolPartner initiative developed?

From the moment the first tree was planted back in October 2020, Cloudforests has been capturing 4K timelapse video. Each company-sponsored area of the site carries a logo, and live video feeds can be accessed at any time, so that partner businesses and their clients can watch the growth of trees and plants, and the animals that call our sites home.

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When we started, even managing to gain as many as 10 partner businesses seemed like a huge achievement that would be a long time coming. Now, a mere 3 years later, a new milestone of 60 CoolPartners is about to be reached. Unbelievably, we have not needed to engage the services of sales or marketing teams to promote what we do, and there has been absolutely zero in the way of paid advertising. We have planted in excess of 50,000 trees to date on our own land and are hoping to double this in the next 18 months.

What is unique about Cloudforests and what do you think makes it compelling?

I think what really inspires our partners is that our initiative is not just about putting their name to part of an existing forest; it really does offer a chance to visit our sites, plant trees and make a personal difference to the environment. Our partners can visit the site and return to spend time here as often as they like. Some businesses even run events from the site, and there are additional opportunities to sponsor bird boxes, bat boxes, and to get involved in other elements of conservation. The scheme has brought businesses, partners, and customers together and has seen them all offer their commitment to the creation of a sustainable future.

You also pride yourself on having a community focus. How does Cloudforests directly benefit local people and businesses?

Cloudforests has been welcomed into the local community because we bring business to local establishments such as hotels, restaurants and shops. We don’t simply plant forests and disappear; we’ve created natural habitats that people can visit at any time all year round. For this reason we are often the preferred bidder for local land because the community will gain not only from the conservation work that we undertake, but also from the custom of the people that we bring to the area.

We also regularly involve ourselves in the local community, even sponsoring sporting events and helping to fundraise for various initiatives and projects. We want to increase our role locally and will be looking into more opportunities to engage with the public, such as enabling small businesses to run from our sites, selling honey or fruit that they have grown on our land.

Finally, what’s next for the Cloudforests project?

While we work with our CoolPartners to help support them from a sustainability viewpoint, we also relish the chance to get them together to network and share ideas from business to business. Many partners are continuing to help and advise us as part of an almost symbiotic relationship, imparting knowledge or offering their technologies or expertise to benefit our work.

Elsewhere we are in discussions with Plastic Bank, an organisation that specialises in the collection and recycling of plastic to prevent it from ending up in our oceans, to learn where we might be able to help. We have also just set out on an exciting new endeavour with Stepping Stone Forests, a volunteer-led project which creates small, dense, biodiverse woodlands in urban settings, such as within the grounds of schools and businesses, using native trees and shrubs. We will be working with Stepping Stone Forests to develop 15 micro forests in the next 12 months, to seek corporate sponsorship and to assist them in ramping up operations for the next planting season.

We very much look forward to continuing to grow Cloudforests and make positive changes to the world around us, bringing dedicated and likeminded people together through a shared drive and determination to make our world greener and more sustainable.


Cloudforests’ Robohives, installed on Cloudforest One and Cloudforest Three, are helping the team to study the lives of bees. This includes monitoring ‘hive health’ by collecting data about the bees’ movements and even using specialist scales to help monitor honey production.

Through analysis of data about the activities of the bees at the site, including a method whereby bees are automatically counted as they enter and leave each hive, beekeepers are kept informed with access to live data at the touch of a button. And as the protection of bees and importance of pollinator-friendly choices tie in with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) responsibilities, many companies are taking the opportunity to learn more about the life and health of bees and their importance to our ecosystem at the Cloudforests sites.