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Virtuous circle

Last December, PrintIT Reseller participated in a roundtable discussion on carbon offsetting with Jeremy Spencer, marketing director of Toshiba TEC UK, Mark Simpson, managing director of CO2balance, and Paul Chipling, CO2balance’s director of sales and marketing. Here we present edited highlights. A video recording of the discussion can be seen on the PrintIT Reseller website.

Projects sponsored by Toshiba and C02balance
Projects sponsored by Toshiba and C02balance

PrintIT Reseller (PITR): Mark, please could you tell us a little bit about CO2balance?

Mark Simpson: CO2balance is an internationally recognised carbon offsetting, carbon management and carbon reduction company. We were founded in 2003, originally doing domestic, UK-based offsets, which is how we met Toshiba. Then, throughout the 2000s we expanded into Africa. We now operate in 11 countries, doing a variety of projects, all to internationally recognised standards, ranging from VCS gold standard to CBM (Clean Development Mechanism) credits.

PITR: And how did you get involved with Toshiba TEC?

Paul Chipling: When we were doing UK woodland projects, a client purchased a gift tree as part of a Christmas present for Toshiba. That planted a seed in the minds of the Toshiba marketing team. They realised that carbon reduction and offsetting was an effective way to brand Toshiba as a green company, to do something good for the environment, and to reach out and show people how green marketing can work for a business.

PITR: Jeremy, please you can tell us a little more about Toshiba’s Carbon Zero Scheme?

Jeremy Spencer: The Carbon Zero scheme was introduced in 2009 and we’ve been working with CO2balance ever since. We measure the carbon impact of our products, from materials procurement to construction and delivery, and purchase credits to the same level. We put these into a variety of CO2balance projects, so when our products are delivered to customers, they are carbon neutral.

PITR: Paul, please could you explain a bit more about some of the projects CO2balance is involved with.

Paul Chipling: The project that’s been supported the most, right from the very start, is the Kenyan cooking stoves programme. In Africa, people cook using three-stone fires – basically three stones with a pot on top and firewood underneath. The thermal efficiency of this arrangement is very, very poor. There is a lot of wasted heat and significant use of wood, contributing to deforestation, and it’s very smokey.

We’ve developed a fuel-efficient stove, which we make in a factory in Mombasa and distribute free to families. This halves the amount of firewood needed to cook and the amount of carbon emitted – on average, each stove saves 3 tons of carbon a year. You get the environmental benefits of reduced carbon emissions, less deforestation and improved habitat protection, and it is a quicker, easier and cleaner way to cook, so there is a huge impact on the lifestyle of people in Kenya.

The second most popular initiative is the borehole project in Uganda, through which we find and fix broken boreholes. This provides millions of gallons of clean water to families in Uganda within 20 or 40 metres of where they live. Families and children don’t have to walk 3-4 kilometres and carry back bucketfuls of water. Nor do they have to boil water to clean it. So there is an important carbon saving, as well as improved quality of life.

PITR: Your projects all seem to combine the environmental benefit of carbon reduction with a variety of social benefits.

Jeremy Spencer: Absolutely – and we give our customers the opportunity to expand those even further through bespoke projects. With the stoves, there is a health benefit because they burn a lot cleaner. And because they are more efficient, children, who are often responsible for collecting firewood, don’t need to gather so much, giving them more time for education. Because schools in Kenya educate as many children as they can accommodate, one of the projects we have for our customers is the construction of big kitchens that can house industrial stoves. These enable schools to cook more meals, which means that they can educate more children.

Mark Simpson: Can I just add two further benefits: the lack of particulates in the atmosphere when people cook inside with one of our stoves; and changed patterns of wood collection. With three stone fires, people essentially chop down whole trees and feed them into the fire. Because our cook stoves are so efficient and have only a relatively small opening, they don’t need so much wood. Now, people tend to take branches off but leave the trees standing. It’s phenomenal to see reforestation occurring because people are conserving their fuel source and just trimming off what they need.

Jeremy Spencer: Something else I’d like to add is that when the children we help get into education come home, they generally study by the light of kerosene lamps. Kerosene is a very smoky fuel and a potent greenhouse gas. For a few dollars, we can give them solar-powered lamps, which again reduces emissions and pollution. These are all little, marginal gains that can completely change people’s lives.

PITR: The social impact of these projects is clearly enormous, but what effect has Toshiba’s Carbon Zero scheme had on emissions?

Toshiba's Carbon Zero Scheme
Toshiba’s Carbon Zero Scheme

Jeremy Spencer: I’m very proud to announce that we’ve managed to offset our first 100,000 tonnes of CO2 – that’s just in the UK, not counting the projects we run in Europe. We can also provide partners with bespoke projects to support their own green activities and have just gone through Paris 2016 accreditation to make our business carbon neutral.

What I really want to tell our partners is that in addition to these outward-facing initiatives, our entire product development is geared to making sure our products consume as little energy as possible. For example, we make sure our products have sleep modes, sensible sleep modes, and automatic duplexing to save paper. It’s very important for us that our technology is aligned with our environmental message.

Paul Chipling: That’s an important part of the carbon hierarchy: to calculate, manage and understand your carbon footprint; to reduce it where possible through technology, innovation and education; and then to offset it through high impact projects. You have to follow that hierarchy of carbon management, which is just what Toshiba is doing.

PITR: A comprehensive approach like that is especially important considering the bad press that carbon offsetting has had in the past.

Mark Simpson: It has had a bad press over the years, and you’ll always get people who pick on things. However, if you look at what came out of the Paris agreement, article 6 is all about carbon offsetting and carbon trading.

PITR: How have Toshiba’s customers reacted to the scheme?

Jeremy Spencer: Very positively. Some people had the attitude of ‘Do we really need this?’, but once you sit down and explain things in granular detail, they really do appreciate it. Many customers have brought our schemes into their own CSR programmes. We deliver carbon neutral products to them and give them the opportunity to offset the paper and energy consumed in the usage phase.

Paul Chipling: The projects sell the story. It’s basically a win-win: the customer gets a great quality Carbon Zero MFP and at the same time helps people in the poorest parts of the world, effectively supplying them with clean water, clean cooking and saving them time so that they can start new enterprises, go to school, have more play time.

PITR: 100,000 tonnes sounds a lot; can you give us some idea of what that means in a way that people can understand?

Paul Chipling: It’s equal to the annual carbon emissions of 70,000 homes. Or, from a project perspective, it’s equal to putting 15,000 stoves into Kenya and improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, or providing 18.1 million litres of clean water to villagers in Uganda. That’s an astonishing figure.