Not all carbon credits are equal. In fact, some are likely to be phantom credits and don’t represent genuine emissions reductions. It’s a huge problem as businesses around the world are attempting to get to carbon zero and might well find themselves in a sticky situation in the years to come with low quality credits.
It’s a complicated industry, but one Kiwi start-up is aiming to demystify the world of carbon removal by providing authentic credits to everyday Kiwis and businesses alike.
Meet the founder Finn Ross and co-pilot Lachie Dixon from CarbonZ. They are one of the start-ups taking part in our three-month 2023 Accelerator in Cohort X.
CarbonZ is the brainchild of Finn, who sits as co-chair of Future Farmers NZ, biodiversity and sustainability director at Lake Hawea Station and is currently doing his PhD at The Blue Carbon Lab. The self-proclaimed ‘eco-interpreter’ started CarbonZ to be New Zealand’s first traceable, tradeable native carbon exchange.
“The key word for us in what we do is impact. There are a lot of carbon credits in the market which have a low percentage of funds going to actual impact, for us getting funds to where they are needed on the ground is the core focus,” said Lachie.
Lachie joined the CarbonZ team as a climate action and strategy lead. He’s currently completing his final year studying law and finance at Canterbury University. Claire Barnes, ex-CEO of Ecoya, Geoff Ross, serial entrepreneur, Jack Johnson and Ben Aitken round out the team.
The youthful but passionate team started by wanting to solve the problem of the everyday Kiwi being unable to get involved in the carbon market.
“This was the original problem that Finn came across, that the average everyday Kiwi couldn’t buy a single carbon credit if they wanted to invest, you had to know someone who knew someone and buy large amounts which is impractical for the everyday Kiwi. So the idea was to create a Sharesies for carbon credits.”
“We want to become the world leaders in high quality, traceable, impact led carbon removal. That’s the big aspiration. There are a lot of businesses out there trying to make a buck off the carbon market. It’s not about money for us, it's about having a genuine impact on the climate crisis.”
There has been no shortage of challenges for the business, from software blips to building products in a market which is dominated by opinions. But their next hurdle is breaking into the B2B market.
“We’re being really selective about who we work with in the business space. We’re currently working alongside some trusted kiwi brands in New Zealand whose values align with ours and who are genuine in their desire and efforts to reduce their carbon emissions. It's all part of creating a business that we’re proud to work for and generating real impact.”
While the developing and selling of carbon credits makes up a large portion of their business, they’re also active in working on emissions reduction projects which make up the other side of the climate crisis.
Working in such a novel industry, Lachie said that feelings of doubt could be a constant companion if they let it, but the integrity of the business and the knowledge that they are offering high quality and authentic credits with wrap-around support and advice in the climate space help buoy them through the hard times.
“As adventurers and nature lovers, we are all deeply passionate about facilitating real action which is what spurs us on despite the challenges of start-up life,” said Finn.
“CarbonZ in three weeks time is about to launch New Zealand’s first Biodiversity credit - we are very excited to bring new products online to restore nature in New Zealand.”
While only in their early 20s, they have solid advice for others their age - start your own business!
“It’s easy and comfortable to go straight from university into a salaried job. But at this stage of our lives we have no responsibilities and the highest risk tolerance we will ever have, now is the perfect time to take a chance on your own start-up doing something you're passionate about,” said Lachie.
The CarbonZ team have made huge strides in their business journey already and they hope that Sprout will help them take things even further.
“It’s easy as a start-up, especially in the climate space, to want to solve all the problems out there. Sprout is really helping us focus on our slice of the pie before we tackle everything else.”