When the global Plan Vivo Network met in Edinburgh at the end of 2019, all the talk was around the massive up swing in interest in our projects, some of the world’s most holistic natural climate solutions. This surge in demand raised the challenge for us all over those few days…how to find ways to scale these world class nature and community based carbon projects. Developing tech to improve monitoring and transparency is well underway (like Farm Trace), and the second strategy is building long term multi year commitments, giving project teams financial security to plan and grow. Through C Level’s Carbon Balanced Programme, Springer Nature have made this very commitment to CommuniTree in Nicaragua, and the results are impressive.
Rising demand for natural climate solutions as businesses commit to Net Zero 2030
Throughout the blur of 2020, interest in our work has continued to build as more businesses align with Net Zero carbon targets.
One of our new clients is leading climate change research publisher, with journals and magazines like Nature and Scientific American in their stable, Springer Nature Group.
In 2020, they made a long-term commitment to balance a substantial part of their annual carbon footprint through C Level and CommuniTree. By committing for the longer term, businesses enable projects to plan, which in turn helps ensure the continuation and growth of the project. Springer Nature Group takes this further by also meeting their priority on the core principle of ‘additionality’; doing all they can to make sure that together, our work creates something new in the world.
Thea Sherer, Director of Group Communications at Springer Nature Group, tells us here why they chose C Level and CommuniTree to help balance their carbon footprint.
Q: What role does Springer Nature play in research and education on climate change and natural climate solutions?
A : Springer Nature is one of the largest publishers of academic peer-reviewed research in the world. It is home to the most highly cited climate change journal Nature Climate Change, that disseminates the latest research on the causes and impacts of climate change, and its implications for the economy, policy and the world at large.
As a company publishing this kind of research and sharing it with the wider world, we know that addressing climate change will take the collective actions of governments, businesses and wider society and so we need to play our part too, to manage the impacts of our operations. So in 2020 we announced that we were working to become carbon neutral for our Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, as well as business flights (partial Scope 3) and that high-quality carbon offsets would be a component of how we do this, while also looking to reduce our overall emissions.
Q: Why did you choose to work with C Level?
A: We first started investigating the role that offsets might play in our approach to managing the carbon impacts of Springer Nature a couple of years ago and brought together a small working group to investigate our options, including the editors in chief of two of our important climate and sustainability journals who are well connected into the research communities who are working on these issues.
We quickly realised that we needed to have a rigorous approach to selecting carbon balancing or offset projects, especially when it came to offsets demonstrating additionality. We identified certification schemes like Plan Vivo as one form of assurance that could help us. After we were introduced to C Level and heard about the CommuniTree project in Nicaragua, we were struck by the working relationships that were in place with the local community and the variety of positive impacts this project could have both on the forest and for those involved in its restoration.
Q: After the pilot Carbon Balanced programme we ran together, why did you choose to make CommuniTree your flagship offsetting project?
A: After the pilot in 2019, we agreed a further three year commitment to CommuniTree in 2020, coinciding with Springer Nature’s announcement of our first carbon neutral commitment. We recognise that socially valuable projects like this one benefit from some level of certainty and so felt that making a commitment over a period of time would help provide this. We really appreciate the close connections between the project and C Level, which means we are able to share case studies and stories with our colleagues and other stakeholders about the support that Springer Nature is providing.
Q: What advice would you give to others in your position who are starting later than you and trying to make sense of the immense challenge presented by Net Zero?
A: We have had to learn a lot about different types of offsets and other types of certifications, for renewable energy for example. As a publisher – with a relatively small carbon footprint overall – this was a totally new area and I was fortunate in being able to work closely with a fantastic procurement team who took the time to research and learn about a market which was new to us as an organisation. Working in close partnership with them, and also taking the advice of experts who understood some of the potential pitfalls of different kinds of schemes, was crucial for us. With so much focus now on the need for companies to contribute to net zero targets, the demand for offsets will of course go up, and that raises concerns for me about schemes that aren’t truly additional or aren’t as transparent as they should be. So my advice would be to do your research, create a list of the things which are most important to your business from an assurance point of view and recognise that this is still a relatively new and emerging market.
Springer Nature Group sets out more on its sustainability approach at www.springernature.com/SustainableBusiness and on its carbon action at www.group.springernature.com/gp/group/taking-responsibility/acting-on-carbon.
CommuniTree doubles impact during 2020, reaching the 10 million trees planted mark
So with all this interest in the Carbon Balanced Programme, it is a real cause for celebration that the CommuniTree project has successfully risen to the challenge of rapid scale up.
Taking Root’s CommuniTree project celebrates major milestones in this, its 10th year of operation. C Level is one of Taking Root’s earliest partners; we could not be more excited to see how far this project has come since 2010! It is now a flagship that is not only scaling itself, but offering the tools and know-how to seed other projects around the world. All made possible by the many businesses that have supported it over these years. A massive thank you to all of you for helping this happen:
In 2020, the CommuniTree project planted their 10 millionth tree, issued their one millionth carbon credit with Plan Vivo and sailed past their target when in a single year they reforested 2,107 hectares of underused land, more than double the area they reforested in 2019. There are now over 6000 hectares of reforested land, and more than 1,300 farmers taking part in the programme, with 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 being sequestered, and almost US $7million going to local communities. All this despite the challenges Covid-19 brought to the region.
Scaling the project globally
Their successes continue with Taking Root’s model being rolled out across three continents to 9 countries around the world, and their innovative FARM-TRACE nearing its launch as an Approved Approach with Plan Vivo. This will enable any small holder project to automate their forest and carbon reporting, and access financing for forest carbon. Perfect timing with the recent surge in companies making large-scale Net Zero carbon commitments and collaborative initiatives such as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration launching in 2021.
Committing long-term to natural climate solutions
How CommuniTree and our other projects continue to grow in 2021 will be down to decisions made by the companies who are contacting us now, looking for help on their road to Net Zero. This includes some of the almost 4000 businesses across 70 countries in the B Corp movement who are committing to Net Zero 2030. If they can take the time to let us really give them a look ‘under the hood’ of our projects, like Springer Nature Group did, they will likely choose to align for the long term with the projects in our Carbon Balanced Programme – holistic projects built to deliver action on carbon, action on forests, with communities.