The Plan Vivo Seminar on “Insetting” at IIED

Besides the international panel of climate change experts of the United Nations, US president Barack Obama recently confirmed the pressing threat of Climate Change. Droughts, melting ice, global warming, we as human species can no longer deny it is real and have to make changes in our lifestyles and ways of production to reduce greenhouse emissions. In december 2014 the COP20 (UN Climate Change Conference) will take place in Lima, Peru, a country which is quite vulnerable to climate change and where climate change adaptation programs have already been introduced in agriculture.

At this background, and as half Peruvian CSR consultant, I was excited to be able to attend the Plan Vivo Seminar on “Insetting within your value chain” at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in London. A quick introduction on Plan Vivo: it is the international standard for agroforestry and reforestation (carbon) projects, where local communities and smallholder farmers are involved. In the projects not only carbon dioxide emissions are reduced, but also eco system benefits are provided against affordable prices for the farmers; Plan Vivo thus contributes to climate change mitigation.

During the Seminar, apart from discussing the concept of Insetting, several organizations and/or companies like Ecometrica, Climate Futures, Source Climate Change Coffee, Costain Group, Pur Projet, CIAT and Catholic Relief Services demonstrated their concrete experiences with Insetting. Insetting is the partnership or investment in an activity that reduces an emission (like reforestation) within the sphere of interest of the company. It is actually about the interconnectiveness between the eco-system and the business.

During the Seminar Plan Vivo also launched its user’s guide on Insetting. One attendee mentioned that although the manual is obviously very useful, many concepts belonging to the carbon economy, like Insetting and Offsetting, among others, are really for specialists, and that there should also be a manual for “idiots”.

Finally, a panel of experts discussed the opportunities and challenges of Insetting. Insetting provides an opportunity for the creation of better markets and better buyers as it entails the adaptation of values and includes the reduction of emissions, among others. The challenge is for each link in the value chain to collaborate in innovation and recognize its connection with the eco-system. Another challenge is to explain Insetting in simple terms.

An important conclusion mentioned at the Seminar is that with Insetting you have to prove that you can make a business out of it. For example “Source Climate Change Coffee” will not sell if it does not have great taste and quality. You have also got to get your marketing and communication right for buyers to understand your product or project. Furthermore, Insetting is not like a classic donor or aid relationship, which fails to integrate in business. It is actually affecting business decisions.

Finally, there was wide agreement that Insetting projects do not belong in a separate CSR departement of a company. Good to know that several companies are already applying Insetting without even knowing the concept.