Steve Distante Helps Founders Scale and Grow… With Trees

Steve Distante in front of a poster of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations

What if there was an investment you could make that fought climate change, reduced our carbon footprint, cleaned the air, helped farmers build sustainable revenue, produced an important commercial product, and seeks to yield a 10x return on your investment?

I recently sat down with Steve Distante, the “Entrepreneur’s Entrepreneur” who helps impactful entrepreneurs scale and grow. His firm, Vanderbilt Financial Group, has billions in assets under management, primarily focused on socially and environmentally responsible, ethical, and impactful investments. Distante is a United Nations Ambassador for entrepreneurship through Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), where he connects entrepreneurship with the UN. In short: he’s one of the best-positioned people in the world to discuss values-aligned investing.

3 P’s of Values-Aligned Investing

An investment term that Distante likes to use is Triple Bottom Line, which describes People, Planet, Profit, and his firm’s intent is to meaningfully address them all at the same time. It’s strategically deploying capital to create a movement that advances humanity forward.

And a new wave of planet-conscious investors are deploying their dollars to fight climate change through carbon farming, soil wealth and regenerative agriculture. For example, the World Tree Eco-Tree Program unites farmers and investors by supporting the Empress Splendor (Paulownia) tree, the fastest growing tree in the world.


World Tree grows the Empress Splendor tree with its network of farmers in North and Latin America. The farmers provide the land, labor, and care of the trees under World Tree’s guidance. The Eco-Tree Program is funded by investors, where every $3,000 invested allows them to plant 1 acre of trees.

Farmers apply to World Tree to participate in the program. World Tree gives the trees to the farmers for free, and even plants them. All the farmers need to do is allocate 10 acres or more of their property. They can benefit from the future sale of the wood, which gives them an additional stream of income that self generates (once they’re cut down, they’ll regrow six to seven times).


Empress Splendor is a miracle tree. It’s one of the few trees on the planet that helps with soil regeneration and brings carbon back down to Earth from the atmosphere.

One acre of trees will absorb four times as much carbon in one year than an average person produces. These non-invasive trees grow so fast that they will reach maturity within 10 years, producing a beautiful, lightweight hardwood with a variety of uses.

It grows back from the stump up to six times more than pine, and can be used in a way that allows the carbon to reenergize the ground instead of depleting the ground of all its nutrients as pine does. It also plays well with other trees, and because it’s so waterlogged, it’s drought and fire-resistant.


World Tree will sell the lumber and share a percentage of profits with their investors and farmers. Once the trees are harvested, each board foot generates significant revenue: $45,000 to $90,000 per retail acre is what they’ve experienced so far.

This single opportunity has sparked a movement. Over 1,000 investors and 100 farmers have joined the Eco-Tree Program since its inception in 2015.

Distante is increasingly seeing opportunities like World Tree that have a Reg A+ structure, which allows almost everyone to invest. Historically, only accredited investors — also known as the wealthy — could participate in a private equity offering.

As social entrepreneurs continue to start businesses that address the world’s biggest problems, and as an increasingly larger pool of impact investors have access to values-aligned investment opportunities, Distante believes we’ll be able to achieve positive global impact at scale.

To learn more about working with Steve Distante, visit:

Watch the whole video interview here:

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