Arguably, a ton of CO2 reduced is a ton of CO2 reduced, period. We think there are other considerations, though.
The first consideration is whether that ton was going to be reduced anyway. Was the carbon-reducing project made possible by the opportunity to receive money for its carbon offsets? To generate genuine offsets, the project must go beyond business as usual.
A second consideration is what you want your purchase to accomplish. Many carbon offsets, even though they come from projects that are additional to business as usual, are generated by projects that already exist. Purchasing these offsets rewards the project and helps build market demand for carbon projects. With our Help Build™ carbon offsets, you can actually help build new projects.
Finally, it is important to ask if the project produces additional benefits. We focus on Native American, family farm, and other projects that help create sustainable economies for communities in need. Many projects also help protect watersheds, improve air quality, and maintain wildlife habitat.
A carbon offset is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. More precisely, it is a reduction that is not required by law and would not have happened without the opportunity for financial support from the carbon offset market.
In today’s world, most of us cannot reduce our energy use to zero. Despite our best efforts, we all use some fossil-based energy—perhaps to heat our homes, power a computer, or fly to visit family. So we produce carbon emissions. The only way for us to be carbon neutral is to reduce an equivalent amount of greenhouse gas pollution somewhere outside the scope of our own activities.
For example, by purchasing carbon offsets, we can help build a wind turbine at a school that otherwise couldn’t afford one. This will make the coal plant down the road produce less energy, reducing carbon emissions in the process.
To the extent that you can’t reduce your own emissions, you can reduce them at another location. Those reductions “offset” your own emissions, giving you a net zero carbon footprint.
Native was founded in 2000. Help Build™ projects were first available for sale in 2001.
Most carbon offsets are sold year-by-year from projects that are already built and operating. These offsets help project investors recover their investment and support the market for carbon projects.
This approach to the market works for many projects, but it has a weakness: lots of smaller, community-based projects can’t get funded if they have to wait for year-by-year offset revenues. Instead, with Help Build™ carbon offsets, our customers purchase a project’s long-term carbon reductions upfront. This provides critical financing that enables project construction.
Help Build™ carbon offsets fix a market failure that is preventing the development of many high quality community-based projects.
Soil carbon sequestration is the process through which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil. The process is primarily mediated by plants which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis; some of this carbon is eventually stored as soil organic carbon. Human activities affect this process, leading to carbon loss or improved storage.
Soil carbon storage is a vital ecosystem service. With modern agriculture and land use as the second largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, right behind energy production, farms are on the front line of climate change.
According to the Science Based Targets Initiative, a GHG reduction target is science based when it is “in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperature increase below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures.” This is evaluated based on information from the International Energy Agency and the IPCC’s 4th and 5th assessment reports.
SBTs are an important mechanism for setting robust targets. But currently, there are gaps in the rules for setting SBTs for scope 3 emissions. Native is working to help fill those methodological gaps because for most companies, the majority of their emissions occur in their value chains (scope 3), and they are seeking approved methods to account for scope 3 emission reduction activities.
Some companies make their business and CSR decisions in almost complete isolation from each other. However, there is more value for the company when the CSR spending is viewed within an impact investing paradigm. Within this framework, long-term strategic business value is factored into all sustainability investments; decisions are made with full consideration of the social (SDGs and other priority areas), environmental and business implications.
The business value may not always be direct, or even measurable in the short term. For example, a bank could support a project that, in addition to the GHG reduction, also provides access to safe drinking water. The project promotes better health, but the company might not be able to immediately realize this benefit. Over time however, residents in the community will incur lower medical expenses and improved health; these residents will consequently have more money that they could save. Effectively then, the investment—in addition to its various positive impacts— opens up a potential market segment for the company or expands an existing segment.
Insetting involves reducing a company’s carbon footprint outside its direct operations but within its own value chain. It involves emission reduction projects within the company’s Scope 3 activities since insetting does not apply to Scope 1 and Scope 2.
Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions from activities within a company’s value chain; activities which do not fall directly within the company’s ownership or control. However, emissions associated with the company’s electricity and heating & cooling demands (Scope 2) do not fall within this category. Scope 3 can at times be the largest source of a company’s emissions and covers both upstream and downstream activities. According to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, upstream categories include: purchased goods and services, capital goods, fuel and energy related activities (not included in scope 1 or scope 2), upstream transportation and distribution, waste generated in operations, business travel, employee commuting and, upstream leased assets. Downstream activities include: downstream transportation and distribution, processing of sold products, use of sold products, end-of-life treatment of sold products, downstream leased assets, franchises and, investments.