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Forget carbon offsetting, insetting is the future

January 9, 2015

Forget carbon offsetting, insetting is the future

Tim Smedley
Friday 9 January 2015 14.24 GMT

Planting trees for carbon offsets is little better than green-washing in many people’s eyes. But what if this sustainability cliche were turned on its head ? if trees were planted to support agroforestry within a business’s direct supply chain? Welcome to the world of insetting. Coined and promoted by sustainability standards Plan Vivo and Pur Projet, it’s a potentially powerful concept that can benefit businesses and the environment.

Offsetting may have long had a bad name (George Monbiot has strongly voiced his concerns), but it remains big business. Commodities Now reported that the globally-traded carbon market was expected to reach ?64bn in 2014. If even a small slice of that were diverted towards sustainability schemes within supply chains, it could have a big impact.

The Accor hotel group, for example, has 470,000 rooms across 92 countries, and a water and electricity footprint akin to a 1 million inhabitant city. Its sustainable development manager, Arnaud Herrmann, explains that instead of offsetting, “we wanted to support projects that made sense with our own activities. The hotel industry is very water-intensive … and food and beverage represents about 40% of Accor’s turnover. So it was natural to support local projects committed to sustainable water and agriculture.”

Teaming up with Pur Projet, Accor identified the potential to bolster community groups within its supply chain. One such project in Morocco planted olive groves and helped to set up a female-run olive oil business. “Women in the area can have trouble finding work,” says Herrmann, “so we provide the budget to plant the olive trees, the women of the region take care of the trees and transform the olives into olive oil, and part of the olive oil produced is sold back to our hotels.”

Accor now has similar projects in other countries growing rice and vegetables. It also supports more traditional tree-planting for CO2 reduction, but does so only in areas close to its hotels that its clients can see. Herrmann believes this is valuable for marketing and customer loyalty.

Read more at The Guardian.

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