How do we turn carbon credits into a triple home run for the impacted social enterprises as well as the offsetting companies?
by Joe Sibilia
If human activities contribute to climate change, what can humans do to manage their impact on the environment?
That was the central question for Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set up by the United Nations and a vocal researcher and commentator on "Man Made Climate Change" as he led the inaugural symposium on REDD+ and global warming on Earth Day.
Sponsored by Wildlife Works and CSRwire, the event was held in Sausalito, California, for an invite-only audience of corporate executives to help them understand the critical issue of deforestation and how their businesses will – if not already – eventually risk getting affected if necessary steps are not taken to mitigate climate change.
Acknowledging receiving countless invitations to events like this, Dr. Pachauri said he enjoyed the wrath of countless special interest detractors ever since he received the Noble Prize. With a smile, he described some of the numerous attempts at discrediting his and his colleagues' research by extractive industries representatives.
Mitigating Climate Change With Carbon Credits: The Dilemma
One of the most popular attempts at mitigating man made climate change is to 'offset' humans' negative impact on the environment with positive impacts - carbon credits. Carbon credits have been experiencing some negative press lately but if you believe in the fundamental position that humans contribute to climate change in some degree, then you must equally believe that humans can also offset the damage.
But, most researchers say that we can't really offset all the carbon that is being released in the air.
A further challenge is the creation of future possibilities for offsetting what is trapped beneath the Earth already. For example, British Petroleum (BP) would need over 200 hundred million tons of carbon offsets to handle their gas stations' carbon releases alone – and that doesn't include all their other activities for processing and delivering the fuel. WildlIfe Works has five million tons of carbon offsets to offer. Other organizations have about the same.
So how do we turn this tremendous business opportunity into a triple home run for the impacted social enterprises as well as the offsetting companies?
Leveraging Carbon Offsets to Empower Social Enterprises
Wildlife Works has a unique value proposition that's worth exploring. If your motive is to feel better about your impact on the environment, Wildlife Works can sell you carbon offsets – and you're done. But, they can make you feel invincible when they connect carbon offsets to community building, social enterprises, education, wild life conservation, and engaged employees, clients and partners.
Today, Wildlife Works is protecting 500,00 acres of highly threatened Kenyan forest, creating hundreds of Ranger jobs protecting the forest, planting trees and with their partner Puma, creating social enterprise jobs and education.
In this model, everyone wins including the environment. But, there is still more work to be done because currently, amid a sea of misinformation, this theory is being viewed as a carbon offset expense whereas it has so much more potential as a value added social enterprise initiative.
In other words, carbon offsets are suffering from an identity crisis. One that companies like Microsoft, Allianz and PUMA clearly seem to see beyond.
But there is hope.
Changing our Terminology, Changing our Frameworks
Drexel University researchers have been creating a formula to track employee engagement and its impact on the value of the enterprise and have found that a connection exists between an engaged volunteer employee and better performance.
Now, climate change offsets connected to social enterprises and successfully communicated internally and externally, endears the enterprise to all of a company's stakeholders.
Bottom line: Carbon Offsets/Social Enterprise is a competitive advantage that will increase the value of your enterprise. Wildlife Works has a great disguise. They are disguised as carbon offset sellers, when in reality they are social enterprise and brand value developers.
Now it is up to us and organizations like Wildlife Works to shift our terminology – much like we have shifted from aligning CSR with pure philanthropy to shared value – from carbon offsets to creating innovative approaches to man's impact on the environment.
Let's restrict those detractors from bothering our Nobel Prize winners so they can do more research and stamp our efforts with scientific evidence.
After all, sustainability is a team initiative. And one that connects us all.