Carbon Offsets and the Future of Corporate Sustainability

Carbon Offsets and the Future of Corporate Sustainability

October 10, 2022

Flowcarbon convened leaders in corporate sustainability at this year’s Climate Week Blockchain Summit to discuss the potential role carbon offsets can play in helping companies around the world achieve their net zero goals.

Julien Miller, Head of Partnerships at Flowcarbon, led a conversation with Jon Leland, Chief Strategy Officer at Kickstarter; Justin Kamine, Founder of Do Good Foods; Birju Shah, Founder of Loam; and Alexis Normand, CEO and Co-founder of Greenly. The panel discussed the obstacles and opportunities facing corporations looking to purchase carbon offsets to meet their goals related to GHG emissions.

“At Flowcarbon, we believe that carbon credits are part of any corporate sustainability diet, specifically for those really hard-to-abate emissions,” Miller said.

Corporations have set environmental responsibility goals in greater numbers than ever before as the world reckons with the climate crisis. More than 1,200 companies, 1,000 educational institutions and 400 financial institutions around the world have joined the Race to Zero, a commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  And those numbers continue to grow: some 86% of S&P 500 companies outlined sustainability goals in 2018, compared to fewer than 20% in 2011.

Investors and consumers are driving much of this goal setting as both look to put more of their dollars behind environmentally responsible companies. According to data compiled by Harvard Business School, 77% of consumers want to buy from companies committed to making the world a better place, and 73% of investors say that efforts to improve the environment and society contribute to their investment decisions. This consumer interest is a key reason companies have voluntarily committed to lowering emissions.

“We’ve got to make monumental changes quickly and efficiently and do so now,” said Justin Kamine, founder of Do Good Foods. “If we can empower consumers to be part of the solution and use consumerism to actually do good in the world, that’s a model we can all get behind.”

Yet as companies increasingly look to purchase carbon offsets, marketplace inefficiencies have created challenges even for those with the best of intentions. Transparency and evaluation of carbon credit quality remain difficult for both large companies without subject matter expertise as well as small companies and startups, which are more resource constrained and therefore can’t invest in the legal and other expertise needed to navigate the market.

“It’s hard because we’re not in the business of evaluating offsets,” said Jon LeLand, Chief Strategy Officer at Kickstarter.  “There’s increasing risk as a corporate buyer that if you don’t buy the right offsets it might come back and hurt you. Companies don’t have that skill set in house.”

Much of the discussion from corporations at this year’s Blockchain Summit centered on the current impediments to scaling carbon solutions—namely, the opaque market for carbon credits. Bringing credits onto blockchain solves those problems by democratizing access, price transparency and immutable tracking of credits as they change hands.

"Bringing carbon credits on-chain enables us to create fully transparent offset products that meet set, stringent requirements, removing the onus from corporations for doing their own research based on third party information. That isn't a skill set every company has nor should it be necessary for meeting sustainability goals,” said Caroline Klatt, co-founder and COO of Flowcarbon.

The tokenization of carbon credits put forth by Flowcarbon means that each offset credit must be certified by market accepted standards. Such projects are validated, verified and registered under standards endorsed by the International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance, government approved carbon crediting schemes or other market validated crediting mechanisms.

“I think this year is really the awakening,” said Alexis Normand, CEO and Co-founder of Greenly. “If American capitalism gets its head around this, it’ll go much faster.”