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Gold Standard carbon offsetting

Global carbon management company co2balance, has been working with Toshiba TEC since 2009. PrintIT Reseller spoke to Managing Director Mark Simpson to find out more about the company and its work with LDCs (Least Developed Countries), businesses and NGOs

Much needed water development
Much needed water development

Simpson set up the company in 2003 with a group of friends. “Initially it was a voluntary organisation, we were looking at planting trees to offset both individuals’ and companies’ carbon footprints,” he explained, adding: “We wanted to make a difference and raise awareness of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

At the time environmental awareness was at the early stages, the Kyoto Protocol (major UN climate change policy) was adopted twenty years ago but only entered into force in 2005. It was at this point that co2balance experienced a greater take-up, as cognizance of the issue increased. “As mitigating climate change became higher on the corporate agenda, we were approached by a number of businesses looking to dip their toe in the water,” Simpson said. “We started to look beyond tree planting and it emerged that best practice was to concentrate on projects in developing countries. After visiting Kenya, we completed our first overseas pilot project – replacing bulbs with low energy ones, on behalf of one of our clients.”

Having identified LDCs as its area of focus, co2balance sent an engineer out to Kenya to do some research and run the numbers. “The outcome of that was that we identified a real need to provide an alternative to the three-stone stoves the locals used for cooking,” Simpson added. This finding led to the development of the African Energy Efficiency Stove project, which provides energy-saving cooking stoves for villages, reducing firewood usage by 50 per cent and indoor smoke pollution by 70 per cent. This remains its main project in countries including Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Making life easier this new water development
Making life easier this new water development

Other initiatives currently underway include fixing broken boreholes in rural Uganda, Malawi, Ethiopia and Eritrea that supply clean, safe water. The company is also looking to open new water projects in India. “In some countries we manage the projects by ourselves and in about nine other areas, we work with partners, predominantly NGOs,” Simpson explained. co2balance has also done consultancy on forestry projects and acts as an accredited consultant on schemes in Malawi and Mozambique.

Setting standards

Co2balance was a founding member of the International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance (ICROA), a non-profit organisation established in 2008. ICROA’s primary aim is to deliver quality assurance in carbon management and offsetting through its member’s adherence to the ICROA Code of Best Practice. This ensures credibility and quality for corporates using voluntary carbon offsets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and meet their carbon targets.

“Creating a code of best practice professionalised carbon offsetting in a way and with that in place, we saw more corporates looking to get involved in a much bigger way,” Simpson said.

Children holding Toshiba and c02balance advertisement regarding their massive environmental help in that region.
Children holding Toshiba and c02balance advertisement regarding their massive environmental help in that region.

It was around that time that co2balance first started to work with Toshiba’s laptop division. “We worked with them and their partners offsetting the carbon associated with manufacturing and shipping. Then in 2009, we got involved with Toshiba TEC UK on the print side, calculating and offsetting the carbon emissions from their MFPs to make them Carbon Zero,” he explained.

To date, Toshiba TEC UK’s Carbon Zero scheme has offset 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) – the equivalent of 46,874 return flights from London to New York, the electricity used in 73,542 houses over the course of a year, and the CO2 generated from making 2.5 billion cups of coffee.

Carbon Zero business

In 2013, Toshiba TEC invited its dealers to participate directly in the scheme. By extending the Carbon Zero scheme to its channel partners, it was offering them a ready-made CSR policy as well as placing them in a stronger position to tender for new business with larger corporate clients, who increasingly challenge their supply chain to support their own carbon reduction agenda.

In addition to offsetting the equivalent amount of CO2 to that of any Toshiba product’s footprint, working with co2balance also enables Toshiba partners to become Carbon Zero businesses. Signing up is straightforward, partners simply supply details of their company’s gas and electricity usage, water and waste data, business travel and accommodation. co2balance audit the information supplied and provide recommendations on how they can reduce their carbon footprint and ongoing energy costs.

Once a full carbon footprint has been established for a dealership, co2balance supplies and retires the required carbon credits on their behalf in the approved international register. Dealers then receive a certificate recognising them as a Carbon Zero business and can use the associated branding for marketing purposes over the following 12 months.

Premier Office is one Toshiba partner that is credited as a Carbon Zero business. “We started carbon offsetting three to four years ago,” Nick Martin explained. “We promote it on our emails and we tell people about it. We find companies that are themselves environmentally-friendly really like it. So we made the decision to go the whole way, to do our bit and offset our own carbon emissions and become a Carbon Zero company.” Sharples Group, a Toshiba Premier Solutions Provider is also a Carbon Zero company.

One million tonnes

co2balance currently has over 100 active projects, some of which are multi-projects. “We control about one million tonnes of carbon per year,” Simpson said, adding that this figure is likely to rise exponentially in the next few years. “The Paris agreement kicks in in 2021 and that offers scope for massive expansion of the carbon market.”

In conjunction with that there is the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), which aims to offset any annual increase in total carbon emissions from international civil aviation above 2020 levels through the reduction of such emissions outside of the aviation industry.

“All our work is gearing up for that,” Simpson explained. “We’re talking to major airlines both directly and with our partners.”

He continued: “The one thing that has changed over the past fourteen years is that we no longer have to talk about what climate change is. Even up to five years ago we were still explaining why there is a need to reduce carbon emissions, but now it’s almost become a given that the projects we manage mitigate climate change.”

The company is a firm advocate of delivering high impact, small scale community focussed projects. “What we do is different, if a client asks us to build a bespoke project, we can do that in any territory and everything we do is Gold Standard and sits within the international rules,” Simpson explained.

Simpson points out that the work it does is predominantly in LDCs. “We don’t make it easy for ourselves, we run projects in remote villages which can take hours to reach by road. We prefer that though, because what we do has a much greater impact in those places than it would in a more developed place or within the Western world.

“We definitely don’t do what we do the easy way but we do it the best way from a community perspective. Today people are really interested in the impact of our projects and that’s a great position to be in,” he said in conclusion.

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