Climate change is a clear and present danger, and some individuals, companies, and governments are choosing to mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions (from air travel, electricity use, etc.) by purchasing carbon offsets or credits from a third-party vendor.
This is one way to go “carbon neutral”, but as world leaders in environmental project management, Palladium challenged itself to come up with a more ambitious, innovative, and impactful solution.
“We calculated our global carbon emissions in metric tons and designed a forest regeneration project to offset them in the Peruvian Amazon,” explains Andrew Sutherland, COO for Palladium’s Partnerships for Forests program and an architect of the carbon offsetting project.
The Peruvian Amazon is the fourth largest tropical forested area in the world and home to one of the largest indigenous populations across the topical belt. Working with local NGO Acaté Amazon Conservation, Palladium’s grant will regenerate 40 hectares while training the local community in sustainable agroforestry practices, improving their livelihoods and providing them with income-generating opportunities to preserve their culture.
“We’ve always aspired to reduce our carbon footprint as a company, particularly given the amount we typically travel,” says Palladium CEO Christopher Hirst. “With this approach, not only will we be removing the carbon dioxide that our business emitted in 2019 from the atmosphere; we’ll be delivering scalable social impact at the same time.”
The Cocama People
Communities along the Amazon River in northern Peru face a nearly impossible situation, as a lack of economic opportunities forces them to cut trees for timber, while the young and able (primarily men) migrate to urban areas in search of low-wage employment. The result is a weakened community, the loss of traditional knowledge, and a crucial forest left vulnerable.
The Cocama tribe is one such community, living mainly in the upper Amazon region of Peru where the forest is sparsely inhabited and difficult to reach.
Core to addressing this blend of environmental, economic, and social challenges is a model called “agroforestry”, which integrates the planting of trees with other species that can generate income for the Cocama.
“Acaté will use a grant from Palladium to provide the community with assistance and seedlings to reforest 40 hectares of primary forest,” explains Palladium’s Federico Biadene, “along with training in how to manage plantations, monitor the forest, and generate up to $26,000 per metric tonne of processed aquaje fruit.”
According to Biadene, this sustainable business model will include the Cocama – and the women in particular – as stakeholders in the value chain.
“These communities are fragmented; it’s mostly the women who stay in the village while the men tend to favour migration, forced to leave their families behind because there’s no other choice,” he says. “Processing raw materials requires specific knowledge, and Acaté focuses on training and equipping the women to manage this, leaving them with a skillset they can use and scale in the future.”
Completing the value chain, Acaté is the NGO arm of Eco Ola, a Peruvian wholesaler that will purchase the raw materials from the community and supply the market in the U.S. and Europe.
According to Sutherland, partnering with a local NGO like Acaté will be crucial to the project’s success and sustainability.
“Building relationships takes a long time, and it’s very difficult in remote, forested areas as an outsider to work credibly with indigenous communities,” he says. “Acaté is from Peru, and understands how communities work and what drives them. Once we’ve injected funding into the model, it can scale up and benefit the communities after we’ve walked away. That self-sustaining model is essential for the long-term sustainability of the forest and the people.”
A First Step
Climate change may have taken a temporary backseat to other global crises, but the trend toward mitigating the impacts of our emissions will continue.
“We’re going to see a huge number of companies making efforts to go carbon neutral,” predicts Sutherland. “Our kids and grandkids will be amazed that companies used to get away with not doing this. That will be the future, and I’m proud that Palladium is doing it voluntarily, and in such an innovative, sustainable way.”
Biadene agrees: “We’re putting our money where our mouth is, and this is only the first step. Watch this space.”
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