4. October 2023
Julia Kriegel

Wilderness International and CO2 Compensation

Early in the development of our sustainability strategy, we placed VAST GREEN under one motto: “We Do Not Just Compensate”! We understood that offsetting CO2 is not enough to protect our planet from the impending climate catastrophe. We are also aware that a multifaceted transformation is necessary in order to be fit for the challenges of the future – not only as an organization, but also as a team!

At the same time, even during this development process, the responsibility remains to compensate for ongoing emissions. To do this, our first step was to use Code Gaia to create a measurement basis that takes into account our remote structure and digital infrastructure – we wanted to know more precisely where we are responsible for what amounts of CO2 equivalent emissions. The standard values, which are usually used for typical office space and employee numbers, are unsurprisingly unsuitable for our virtual work organization like VAST FORWARD.

In a second step, we researched partner organizations that could assist us in meaningful offsetting. Unfortunately, the “certificate trade” is not an easy market to navigate in. Until 2022, a good way for us was to be planting trees for reforestation, in order to bind CO2.
For 2023, we have found a partner who takes a different approach and thinks further: that is, protecting already existing forest areas, which also carry the issue of biodiversity, which plays a major role in our future.

Are you still offsetting
or are you already making a difference?

CO2 offsetting is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough to save the planet from the effects of climate change on its own. There are several reasons for this: “buying your way out” with certificates that save much less CO2 than promised.

Carbon offsets are supposed to offset carbon emissions by investing in projects – In early 2023, it was revealed that the “…carbon offsets approved by the world’s leading certifier Verra and used by Netflix, Disney, Shell, Gucci and other major corporations … are, according to an … investigation, largely worthless (and) (…) could even exacerbate global warming. An investigation by the Verra Standard (the world’s largest certifier) of offsets shows that most are “phantom credits” that could exacerbate global warming.” Even if such forms of offsets helped reduce one’s carbon footprint, they have no impact on broader systemic changes – a mere free-for-all, “greenwashing”…

Even the best offset projects in reforestation take time to achieve the intended emissions reductions - after all, the trees that are planted have to grow into trees first. But that doesn't stop the ever-accelerating emissions that need to be reduced NOW. Immediate action is needed to prevent global warming and its associated consequences.

Offsetting CO2 emissions can trigger a rebound effect. This means that offsetting organizations feel justified in maintaining or even expanding "carbon-intensive" activities because, after all, they are offsetting ... find the mistake ...

Ensuring the effectiveness and integrity of carbon offset projects is another challenge. For, of course, accurate measurements are needed, verification and long-term monitoring to ensure that promised emissions reductions are actually achieved. However, the lack of standardized methods and reliable accounting systems makes it difficult to guarantee the seriousness of climate protection projects.

As you can see, we did not choose our motto without reason. In order to effectively combat climate change, a holistic approach is required that enables offsetting with immediate effectiveness and means sustainable transformation. Carbon offsetting is therefore one tool among many, in a broader strategy to save our planet.

Choosing the right Partner

Our search for a partner to accompany us on our journey and support our approach of “not just compensating” led us to a new path in 2023 – one that felt better to us. Going forward, we are partnering with Wilderness International!

Wilderness International is a foundation that works to protect and conserve forests in Peru and Canada that are critical to biodiversity, climate regulation, and the well-being of local communities. To do this, Wilderness International buys the land locally and secures it through land registration. This guarantees that the forest areas are protected for generations to come.

They also work with local communities and other locally active organizations to establish protected areas, implement sustainable forest management practices, and combat deforestation and illegal logging. To do this, they also rely on so-called “Forest Guardians” who work on the ground in the areas, making sure that forest areas are not cleared, for example, and collecting and cataloging data on local flora and fauna.

So, just like us, Wilderness International is committed to holistic change – and prioritizes the conservation of primary rainforest and thus the protection of existing biodiversity – we like!

In one of our expert interviews, we asked “Joschi” from Wilderness International questions about the foundation and let him explain in little more detail how the foundation works on the grounds in Peru and Canada.

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