The second part of our Zero in on Neutrality: the Full Story series discussed how carbon offsetting impacts long-term community development.
The moderator was Vera Belazelkoska of Ulula. She started the discussion with the often-forgotten truth: “environmental rights are human rights. Protecting the planet means protecting the planet for people and those who are most vulnerable.” With this, the panel explored how we ensure can that everyone benefits equally.
Our panel featured Esther Rohena, of South Pole, and Kasper Kupperman of The Green Branch to impart their insights as project developers. Katia Nicholas, of GOOD KRAMA and Eric Dales of Tamga Designs joined them to incorporate brands’ perspectives.
How can communities and local stakeholders participate in offset projects?
The harsh reality about climate change, as Esther pointed out is “the most marginalized communities are the most impacted.” So how do we involve them in the process and change the dynamic? All the panelists agreed that for projects to be successful and bear the intended outcomes, they must be co-created with local stakeholders. Carbon offsets are designed as long-term projects and Esther points to “creating a clear benefit sharing model from the start” as a criterion for success.
For example, when Kasper and his team approach a farm, the reality is, “no farmer is saying, ‘oh that’s just what we need, more carbon to be stored here.’ They are interested because you bring a whole other additionality to them.” There is a substantial amount of education and buy in required from local communities before embarking on a particular project. Projects can benefit communities for years to come, not just during their development but you have to work with local stakeholders so they can maximize it.
Carbon offsetting as a funding mechanism
To understand the social benefits of carbon offsetting, we must understand the lens through which brands view carbon. For Eric, “before looking at carbon offsets, brands should reduce emissions within their own supply chain.” The power of transparency and storytelling is undeniable, so as part of Tamga Design’s identity, they incorporate honest stories of their supply chain to share their business’s impact.
Katia began GOOD KRAMA by establishing an inherently low-carbon supply chain. In addition to using up-cycled materials to reduce emissions, GOOD KRAMA’s “centralized supply chain means that garments are sourced and made within an 80km radius.”
While reducing carbon emissions should be the first course of action, it’s hard to deny the immense social value accrued from offsetting. Eric views “offsetting as a funding mechanism” to help support projects that make a huge impact in the communities they serve, an integral facet of Tamga Design’s identity.
We all need to pull our weight
It’s one thing to maximize the potential of a project, and a completely different thing to align populations around the reality that protecting the planet means their protecting themselves too. As Katia put it, “there are so many ways to go about it, but policy definitely plays a huge role in capping and regulating emissions in general. Offsetting has been used previously as a band aid solution, but it needs to be more embedded in an organizations DNA.”
Companies emit at varying degrees, but Eric envisions a future where “there comes a time when carbon taxes are worked into global economies and worked into the cost of goods.” The future of our planet will be secured when taking care of it is no longer a choice but enforced. Using offsets builds that price in.
The future, for Kasper, involves “working towards a system where we all learn to speak the same language – for example, the UN SDGs. People need to have an intrinsic feeling of wanting to add to the change.” We’re all consumers at the end of the day and have roles to play in the larger eco-system. Katia empowers her consumers to take responsibility for their product’s shipping emissions. She’s found that “98% of consumers will offset shipping when they are given the option. It reinforces the idea that consumers will go green if you give them the tools to do so.”
Carbon Offsets: Last Mile or First Step?
The panelists shared their perspectives on where carbon offsetting fits in an organization’s sustainability journey. They discussed the two possibilities: whether offsets should be the last step in a company’s journey to eliminate unavoidable emissions or the first step as an acknowledgment of its impact as they work to lower it. Our panelists were split on this but acknowledged in the end, that it could be used either way as long as the intent is not to treat offsets as a “silver bullet” and go about business as usual.
Sustainability safeguards the future of the larger ecosystem we live in. But the reality is that we all play different roles in securing that future as climate change impacts us all differently. Our panelists’ shared view is to reduce our carbon footprints and in parallel work closely with local communities and stakeholders protect our planet and futures.
Director of Programs, Ulula
At Ulula, Vera leads the design and implementation of programs to monitor human rights impacts in global supply chains, together with partners from all sectors of society.
Founder, GOOD KRAMA
An environmental economist by trade, Katia was convinced there must be a way to do fashion differently. She founded GOOD KRAMA, in Cambodia after facing the harsh reality of garment manufacturing.
Founder and Director, Tamga Designs
As an international development professional and social entrepreneur, Eric and his partner started Tamga Designs in 2013. Tamga produces garments through an eco-friendly and ethical supply chain in Indonesia.
Associate Director, Global Sourcing, South Pole
Esther heads South Pole’s global activities of emission reduction projects. She oversees project acquisition and the structuring and development of new partnerships and environmental products for carbon markets.
Co-Founder, The Green Branch
While studying at Erasmus University, Kasper and his co-founder, set out to create the Green Branch, a company working towards reducing carbon footprints through reforestation and landscape restoration projects.