Carbon Balanced

our verified projects.

There are many carbon offset projects that are well designed and create verified carbon offsets. But the best go way further. If you choose carefully, you can find projects that by their very nature are enormously beneficial to ecosystems and communities.

Balancing carbon footprints with the world’s best nature-based solutions.

Carbon Balance and C Level logos
Plan Vivo logo

C Level Carbon Balanced projects are all verified under the global Plan Vivo Standard, the world's original community carbon standard.

bring CARBON
down to earth

The best projects are designed with full involvement of the local community, on their own land – and they receive payments and livelihood benefits as money flows to them from the sale of holistic carbon credits. CommuniTree for example, is creating employment for thousands of people and is a significant source of income to local communities across an expanding area in Northern Nicaragua.  What started as a vision in 2010 is now the country’s biggest reforestation project.

Most of our projects are drawdown projects. Capturing carbon through ecosystems, which works for carbon balanced certification and also for Net Zero emerging best practice.

Plan Vivo means Living Plan. It is the world's original carbon standard and is both pro nature and pro people in everything that it does. This total focus on people and nature makes Plan Vivo the world's most holistic standard."

THE PLAN VIVO STANDARD

C Level works closely with Plan Vivo; a network, a charitable foundation and the world’s original carbon standard. We have a global spread of 26 projects and growing. Countries include Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Nicaragua, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Fiji and Mexico.

The Plan Vivo Standard was created to support local communities and the ecological integrity of the places they live.  Some 20,000 people across hundreds of communities around the world are currently working to deliver projects designed around Plan Vivos or Living Plans. Through these plans long-term payments are made to the communities who protect and restore ecosystems. People will only protect and restore forests that have long-term value to the community that overrides the pressures to cut and clear the forests.

Along with Plan Vivo, C Level promotes ‘carbon offsetting’ as a way to compensate for carbon footprints while first prioritising direct carbon reduction at source. When we understand a carbon footprint what follows is both targeted CO2 reduction and then at least 100% carbon offsetting. This is Carbon Balanced action on carbon, pro nature and pro people.

Why do you talk about 'carbon balancing' rather than 'carbon neutral' and 'offsetting'?

Carbon Balanced is a term C Level coined and a certification we provide that is very different. It means offsetting through natural climate solutions and is based on 3 core values:

0.1  Action on carbon

0.2 Action on forests

0.3 Working with communities

As a term and a process, Carbon Balanced is larger than offsetting. Offsetting is a limited term that only addresses carbon emissions. While we work with verified carbon offsets, we always work with nature and people as well. So Carbon Balanced is also about connecting people in business to the power of nature and local communities.  That is all we do.

How do you measure the impact of carbon balancing projects? How do you ensure this impact is 'additional', creating something new in the world through offsetting?

All projects under C Level’s Carbon Balanced programme are designed and verified by the world’s original carbon standard, which is called Plan Vivo. Certification systems like Plan Vivo were set up to give credibility to carbon offsetting/balancing schemes and they require projects to meet a set of standards and provide data about impact. This means that everything from project design to impact reporting follows a structured approach as a part of Plan Vivo’s system.

Payments are made over long periods to communities for the ecosystem services they create or protect. This is key to ensuring that the forest projects under Plan Vivo are uniquely placed to provide long-term security to the forests. Only by creating on-going value to small holder farmers and communities close to forests can their integrity be maintained. Otherwise pressures to cut and clear land of forest are often over riding. 

All projects must achieve additionality – which means they must provide evidence that the project is providing new carbon savings which would not otherwise have been achieved – it’s a key part of the standard. Additionality is built into the project design documents (which have to be approved for each project by Plan Vivo). 

Even more practically, C Level aims to add another layer of additionality by funding projects in advance of any project intervention. This enables the project teams on the ground to plan in advance for seed collection, tree nurseries, community recruitment and everything which is needed to create a long-term viable project. So in short, C Level works with  projects that represent the highest achievement in additionality.

How do you quantify the carbon benefits of projects, the carbon sequestration and uptake by the trees planted?

Plan Vivo sets the base for ensuring best practice. A good example is CommuniTree. There are three strands to this. The project works out how much carbon (on average) will be stored over the course of 50 years from the trees planted on farmers’ land. The carbon models CommuniTree uses have been created by a team of PHDs and reviewed by Plan Vivo’s technical advisory committee (Plan Vivo TAC). The TAC is made up of forestry experts and scientists. All of the technical specifications and carbon projections are outlined in public documentation. 

Second, CommuniTree’s team of local experts provide ongoing monitoring and forestry assessments as the trees grow. These are at the level of individual farmer families’ land. Following best practice forest measurement techniques, they calculate the carbon stored on the farms over time. The project is assessed by an independent third party auditor to verify the results being reported. In the last assessment, conducted by the Rainforest Alliance, the CommuniTree program was awarded “Best Monitoring and Evaluation” for its leading approach. The monitoring results from each year are made public in annual reports each of which can be downloaded on individual project pages.

Finally, CommuniTree’s innovative proprietary software, FARM-TRACE, combines mobile monitoring on the ground with satellite data and uses machine learning to provide continuous reporting on carbon uptake and other impacts. Their interactive tool makes it possible to track the impacts being made in near real time across every farm where trees are being grown.  You can see FARM-TRACE on the CommuniTree project page.

How do you ensure the long term permanence of carbon benefits?

The Plan Vivo model for natural climate solutions has a 25-year track record of success, longer than any other carbon standard. On a project level, action is spread over large areas and with hundreds or thousands of participants.  The programme spreads organizations’ investments over thousands of farms and they plant a surplus each year so they can guarantee that even if some individual farms fail, the overall programme succeeds.

Furthermore, all Plan Vivo carbon offsets are backed up through a risk buffer, like an insurance policy, that spreads risk across all projects across the world. Each Plan Vivo project contributes a percentage of their climate benefit averaging a total of 15%, to the Plan Vivo Non-Permanence Buffer. https://www.planvivo.org/buffer. If a project can no longer meet their carbon sequestration quota, it can draw on the buffer. This protects C Level client Carbon Balanced Certification and reporting.

Plan Vivo sets the base for ensuring best practice. A good example is CommuniTree. There are three strands to this. The project works out how much carbon (on average) will be stored over the course of 50 years from the trees planted on farmers’ land. The carbon models CommuniTree uses have been created by a team of of PHDs and reviewed by Plan Vivo’s technical advisory committee (Plan Vivo TAC). The TAC is made up of forestry experts and scientists. All of the technical specifications and carbon projections are outlined in public documentation. 

Second, CommuniTree’s team of local experts provide ongoing monitoring and forestry assessments as the trees grow. These are at the level of individual farmer families’ land. Following best practice forest measurement techniques, they calculate the carbon stored on the farms over time. The project is assessed by an independent third party auditor to verify the results being reported. In the last assessment, conducted by the Rainforest Alliance, the CommuniTree program was awarded “Best Monitoring and Evaluation” for its leading approach. The monitoring results from each year are made public in annual reports each of which can be downloaded on individual project pages.

Finally, CommuniTree’s innovative proprietary software, FARM-TRACE, combines mobile monitoring on the ground with satellite data and uses machine learning to provide continuous reporting on carbon uptake and other impacts. Their interactive tool makes it possible to track the impacts being made in near real time across every farm where trees are being grown.  You can see FARM-TRACE on the CommuniTree project page.

What kind of impact reporting and communications support is provided to C Level clients?

Reporting is tailored to client requirements. C Level sends clients bi-annual project updates, and annual Impact Reports which provide an overview of each project’s performance that year.  Main detailed reporting is done at the project level and we provide project detailed annual reports.

Our high level C Level Impact Reports are often presented to clients through zoom or in workshops.

We also co-create micro documentaries, available on the C Level 101visions Channel,  to better tell the stories of these inspirational projects.

Can clients engage employees further through project visits or through video calls?

Clients are welcome to visit the projects. This happens regularly and is a successful way for people to meet the communities and teams and bring back first hand accounts of the impact the company is having. Photos are updated in our C Level quarterly news. Zoom calls regularly happen with C Level and the project teams. C Level also provides C Tech to engage people. For example, a bespoke Balance My Flight Carbon Calculator based on an API can enable all staff and teams to engage and report on flight impact and balancing. 

We also co-create micro documentaries with the projects and communities, available on the C Level 101visions Channel, and clients are invited to co-create micro-documentaries with C Level to better tell the story of these inspirational projects.

Carbon offsetting is sometimes controversial; how do you respond to people who view it as 'buying your way out' of a problem rather than making real operational change?

We use the hashtag #BurntItBalanceIt to encapsulate our approach to making use of natural offsets in business and in our daily lives. The point is we’re always dealing with a historic footprint. When we carbon balance a business, we are looking back over time, usually the last 12 months (although some look even further back to the founding of their business, like Google recently announced). You have made the mess, do something about it. Logically you become carbon balanced or offset your last year’s impact and also use your understanding of your carbon footprint to set carbon reduction targets to look forward.

Also, carbon and carbon finance is leveraging a lot of equally important benefits. Since our approach to offsetting (balancing) is always about forests, nature and people, we are helping to make progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and on biodiversity.  The other point is that we need to take action on carbon on all fronts. Supporting nature is one massively important way. 

So what happens next?  It is vital to reduce emissions.  Our Carbon Balanced programme can be used to calculate impact, identify technical carbon reductions and offset previous CO2 emissions.  But we need to go much further.  We want to make carbon balancing just the start of a journey of cultural transformation and radical carbon reduction. And that is where we bring in our new rewilding and relearning programme. To explore together the kind of radical changes we need to accelerate culture change. And yes, it is also vitally important to reduce ongoing emissions. 

We have worked hard over the last 20 years to identify and build relationships with the most effective and holistic carbon offsetting projects in the world. We have spent a lot of time establishing their credibility, transparency and effectiveness.

The essential credo behind our offset schemes is that simple tree-planting is a less effective solution than community-led projects that mix tree planting with poverty reduction, education and conservation.

The projects we work with all fall under the Plan Vivo Standard, run by Scottish Charity, the Plan Vivo Foundation.  This ensures they are designed and verified to the highest standards.

How are Plan Vivo projects different to other types of offsetting projects? How are the projects developed with the local community, putting their views and needs at the centre?

Unfortunately, there are some rather poor offsetting projects around – it’s difficult to see and understand what the projects are achieving on the ground. So we look closely at every project and will often take clients right ‘under the hood’ of a project, connecting them with project leads on zoom so that they can get the story straight from founders and key people on the ground.  

Plan Vivo means Living Plan.  Every project has these living plans at the heart of the project.  They are developed through a collaborative process with the local community.  By design, each project has to put local needs at the centre.  It takes time. The local people are involved  from the very beginning and have control over decision making which means that these projects have a truly sustainable future.  You cannot plant trees without ensuring you have a Living Plan or equivalent that ensures people and nature work together and are funded for years and decades to come.  That’s what the projects are about.  

CommuniTree, for example, has grown from a phone call and a vision ten years ago to the biggest reforestation programme in the whole of Nicaragua. That is for many important reasons, including the support it receives from C Level clients. But most important is the enthusiasm of and agency given to more and more local communities taking part. 

 

 

Why is the Plan Vivo Standard a better choice for us than Gold Standard or VCS?

Plan Vivo is the original carbon standard

With some 25 years experience that predates all other standards, from the beginning it has been about providing verified carbon offsets while also ensuring and guiding sustainable development goals. So with the advent of the Global Goals, it’s really seen as both way ahead of its time, and timely!

Plan Vivo is the most holistic carbon standard only delivering natural climate solutions

Plan Vivo exists to enable rural communities whose livelihoods come from land and ecosystems to thrive.  The people and land, people and forests go hand in hand.  They are inseparable in the standard and this makes it unique.  And, importantly, this is all the standard does. The total focus on people and nature makes Plan Vivo the world’s most holistic standard. The whole standard is built to empower and support local communities and the ecological integrity of the places they live.  Some 20,000 people across hundred of communities around the world are currently working to deliver projects designed around Plan Vivos or Living Plans.  Projects under this standard regularly win the UN Equator Award each year – a global award that highlights projects where local people are working with nature to achieve sustainable development.  Hadza in Tanzania is a good example winning theEquator Award in 2019.  Mikoko Pamoja in Kenya won the award in 2018. 

Plan Vivo is the world’s most inclusive and empowering carbon standard

Plan Vivo offers the most accessible of standards, with a far stronger focus on people and communities. By intention. Designed to provide rural communities with access to the carbon market by keeping up-front development / consultancy costs down and creating tools like SHAMBA (watch the C Level 101vision here) to empower and aid the development of community based forest projects.

PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST

Other standards typically work with larger projects, and often involve heavily funded project development companies who create higher volumes of carbon offsets and cashflows. By nature they tend to not be as focussed as Plan Vivo on people and communities.

Globally, Plan Vivo is also a network of community leaders and developers, and regular gatherings happen to steer the standard and share best practice. These are attended by C Level and are also open to anyone to attend. 

You might also want to take a spin through the micro-documentary C Level made on Plan Vivo

Unfortunately, there are some rather poor offsetting projects around – it’s difficult to see and understand what the projects are achieving on the ground. So we look closely at every project and will often take clients right ‘under the hood’ of a project, connecting them with project leads on zoom so that they can get the story straight from founders and key people on the ground.  

Plan Vivo means Living Plan.  Every project has these living plans at the heart of the project.  They are developed through a collaborative process with the local community.  By design, each project has to put local needs at the centre.  It takes time. The local people are involved  from the very beginning and have control over decision making which means that these projects have a truly sustainable future.  You cannot plant trees without ensuring you have a Living Plan or equivalent that ensures people and nature work together and are funded for years and decades to come.  That’s what the projects are about.  

CommuniTree, for example, has grown from a phone call and a vision ten years ago to the biggest reforestation programme in the whole of Nicaragua. That is for many important reasons, including the support it receives from C Level clients. But most important is the enthusiasm of and agency given to more and more local communities taking part. 

 

 

Is C Level a business or a charity and what about your project partners?

C Level is a B Corp Certified business, meaning we see business as having the potential to be a force for good. B Corp businesses meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

C Level’s Carbon Balanced Programme includes projects run by all kinds of organisations, relevant to the country and cultural context where the project is based. For example, The Khasi Hills Project in Meghalaya is run by a community federation or ‘synjuk’ made up of 11 Indigenous Kingdoms.

Some of the projects in our programme that are the most dynamic and scalable have social enterprise and for-profit business models. Hadza Hunter Gatherers in Tanzania is a good example. Over the years this project, run by our partner Carbon Tanzania Limited, has been able to innovate, expand, and create excellent communications using its organisational structure as a for-profit social enterprise.

CommuniTree is run as a highly innovative social enterprise. Our partner Taking Root are a not-for-profit that runs itself like a business (they describe themselves as being in the business of maximising impact rather than shareholder value). They have a successful business model with a track record running over 10 years during which time they have gone from a vision to being the biggest reforestation project in the country they operate in.

 

How are local people's lives improved through these projects?

People and communities are by nature always at the heart of projects validated and verified under Plan Vivo.

Each community gains in different ways.  That is because they make their own decisions about how project income gets shared and spent. For example, access to mobile health clinics is a key aspect of the Hadza project in Tanzania; school books and clean water is a main benefit to people in Gazi Bay where the Mikoko Pamoja Blue Forest Project is based; and CommuniTree creates full time and part time employment for thousands of farmers.  Projects typically create new and sustainable livelihoods.  CommuniTree for example is providing around 25% of families annual income from reforestation efforts and doing so for 10 years so as to ensure the forest is viable ecologically and economically.

 

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Full Transparency on the IHS Markit Environmental Registry.

Current Projects.

Hadza Hunter Gatherers & Datooga

Tanzania

Protecting forests with the Hadza Hunter Gatherers and the Datooga pastoralist communities. The project empowers the community to conserve their land and safeguard it against degradation and deforestation.

Khasi Hills, Meghalaya

India

Khasi Hills project is a ‘synjuk’ or federation of eleven indigenous kingdoms, working cooperatively to protect and restore forests and sacred groves. Part of the state of Meghalayha, covered in native forests and the wettest region of India.

Mongolian Nomad Project

MONGOLIA

First of its kind project helping 3 Heseg, or extended family groups of Nomads to return to Nomadic practices that enable ecosystem recovery and enhance grassland and woodland carbon uptake.

 

Mikoko Pamoja Blue Forests

Kenya

Mikoko Pamoja is an award winning ‘blue forest’ mangrove conservation and village development projects on the south coast of Kenya. Winner of the Equator Award for communities working with nature.

 

Scolel’te

Mexico

Scolel’te means “the tree that grows” in Tseltal, the indigenous language of Chiapas, Mexico. It is one of the world’s very first nature based carbon offsetting projects, and contributes to the protection of 8 Natural Protected Areas.

CommuniTree

Nicaragua

CommuniTree partners with small-scale farming families to re-create indigenous forest in Nicaragua.  It is now the largest reforestation programme in the country.  It combines farmer driven project design with the innovative monitoring technology of FARM-TRACE.

Trees for Global Benefits

Uganda

A cooperative project that supports reforestation with small holder farmers.  Trees For Global Benefit is an award winning project that helps take pressure off remaining forests through supporting vulnerable families with agroforestry and carbon sequestration.  

Tahiry Honko

Madagascar

Through mangrove conservation, the project supports fisheries management and other initiatives that grow the local economies. These then bring health care, education and wells for the local communities.

Yaeda Valley, Tanzania

Protecting tropical forests with Hadza Hunter Gatherers and Tatoga Pastoralists, Yaeda Valley, Tanzania…

See project

Khasi Hills, Meghalaya, India

Khasi Hills is a ‘synjuk’ or federation of eleven indigenous kingdoms, working cooperatively to protect and restore the forests and sacred groves….

See project

Mongolian Nomad Project

First of it’s kind project restoring Nomadic practices to enable ecosystem recovery and carbon uptake.

See project

Mikoko Pamoja & Vanga Blue Forests

Mikoko Pamoja & Vanga are award winning mangrove conservation and village development projects on the south coast of Kenya.

See project

Scolel’te Partners, Mexico

Scolel’te means “the tree that grows” in Tseltal, the indigenous language of Chiapas, Mexico. It is one of the worlds longest forest carbon projects and contributes to the protection of 8 Natural Protected Areas.

See project

Communitree, Nicaragua

CommuniTree is an award-winning programme for tropical reforestation in Nicaragua. The project combines farmer driven project design and innovative technology to create forests that last

See project

Trees for Global Benefits, Uganda

Trees For Global Benefits reduces destructive exploitation of natural resources, enhances ecosystem diversity, and protects vulnerable communities.

See project

Tahiry Honko, Madagascar

The project sits in the Bay of Assassins, in southwest Madagascar, and promotes locally led conservation, reforestation and sustainable management of over 1,300 hectares of mangroves.

See project

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the world's most holistic nature based solutions