A confession from Tanja: after more than 10 years in the industry, I had never directly, as an individual, purchased a carbon credit!
I could go into all sorts of justifications for why I didn’t feel like I had to, or why only now, but that sort of mea culpa and diatribe on awakening about personal responsibilities won’t really improve anything. Although not an excuse, it’s worth mentioning that Switzerland has had a carbon tax in place since 2008. However, it’s really important to us to lead by example and engage actively with the environmental initiatives we work so hard to support.
Through this blog post I’d like to share how, as a small business owner, we at Clarmondial went about offsetting our footprints.
We decided to offset all of our business travel, as well as both of our personal footprints. For the sake of simplicity and logic we opted to do so for a block of time (i.e. 2 years).
As a first step, we found a few free carbon calculators. However, we were not so sure about their accuracy. Upon some more googling of ‘carbon calculators’ we found a very useful discussion on why all carbon calculators are not created equal. Previously, we’ve used the Conservation International and the CarbonNeutral company calculators, and found them to be quite good.
We also googled the average Swiss persons’ emission, as there wasn’t really any data on that on the calculators: According to the most recently available information from the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment the average Swiss produces a little less than 6 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. In terms of ecological impact, Switzerland’s footprint is more than four times larger than its biocapacity.
For air travel, we probably over-estimated by choosing consistently long-haul flights. So with some gross over-estimation, we got to a figure of around 200 tons of CO2-equivalent per annum, for Clarmondial and both households, for 2 years.
The main considerations for our choice of carbon credits were that:
- We wanted to buy credits that have been issued and registered under a recognized standard and issued into a recognized registry (e.g. Markit or APX). This is so we know the projects use proper methodologies and have been registered e.g. with the Clean Development Mechanism or Verified Carbon Standard. This means that the credits have a serial number we can track, and that the project documentation is all on-line. While pre-issuance credits have some uses, for foot printing, we prefer to buy issued credits.
- We both wanted to buy as direct from the project as possible, to get around brokerage fees and so we get as “close” to the project as possible.
- We wanted to buy credits from projects that have clear positive social and environmental impacts, e.g. projects accredited under the Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance standards or the WWF Gold Standard.
- Having both worked on community projects in Kenya, we both have a very strong affinity for the country. Given this personal connection, we felt inclined to buy credits from Kenyan projects. A lot of very exciting things are happening in Kenya on sustainable agriculture, REDD+ and low carbon growth, and we think this should be supported (may elaborate further in another blog post!).
- As Tanja is a complete sustainable land management nut, and she feels that Afforestation & Reforestation projects are largely neglected in the carbon markets (more on that another time), she really wanted to support this type of project.
It was surprisingly difficult to “buy direct” from a project. There are quite a number of projects listed on the CDM or VCS project databases but it’s not so easy to contact them directly and buy small volumes. We also kept gravitating towards a project that Tanja knows well: The International Small Group and Tree Planting Program (TIST): they sell direct and Tanja has met a few of their people on the ground in Kenya.
TIST has been one of the pioneers of forestry carbon sector. It has been implementing projects since 1999 and has stoically faced and overcome all sorts of obstacles unique to those dealing with the agriculture and forestry sectors of the carbon markets. They developed, in our view, a very innovative approach to tracking impact where you can track individual groves on their website, and have managed to achieve amazing scale despite working with very small community groups. The fact is that we know that TIST has been there effectively from the start of this carbon market and they have really worked with local people and they’ve gotten results. There’s a really good video of TIST available on their website: www.tist.org
Although TIST may not be the right project to buy from for everyone, it does fulfil our criteria. We are proud to display our serial numbers of the credits we bought from TIST (on the “Walking the walk” page), and to share some pictures of the farmers that we have supported through this purchase – see below.
We welcome any thoughts, comments, suggestions and questions; so don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via the “Contact” page.
Next time: We are working on blog entries about social bonds, how non-financial reporting on material risks are driving sustainable investing and a small research project to understand the economics of a group of women market traders in Mozambique.