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Non-Profit vs. For-Profit Carbon Offsetters

Posted Aug 25 2008 6:29pm
The brand new Carbon Catablog (yes, that's Cata blog ) has kicked off its first series of posts with an interview with yours truly. We love the topic: non-profit vs. for-profit carbon offsetters. Carbonfund.org is a non-profit , and my answer to one of the interview questions spells out the basic reason why:

We’re a nonprofit because what we do is very clearly a public good. When individuals and businesses use us to help support projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the benefit received – a cleaner, healthier planet – is a benefit for everyone. Being a nonprofit allows us to focus solely on our mission: reduce greenhouse gasses, fighting global warming, hastening the transition to a clean energy future.
Read the full interview here .



One question that I could have answered a bit more fully, though, was whether I think we'll be able to compete with for-profit companies over the long-term.



We at Carbonfund.org have a given a good deal of thought to this question, particularly in those moments when we get to thinking about just how much more per ton some of our for-profit competitors are charging for what is essentially the same product that we sell: a verified greenhouse gas reduction (take a look at this company-by-company price comparison of carbon offsets EcoBusinessLinks put together).



Here's our answer. First, we know we're efficient; 95 percent of our revenue goes to support our offset programs, which includes direct payments to project owners, sponsors, and developers, in addition to development and maintenance of the program.



Second, we know that being a non-profit has actually won us large amounts of business that otherwise might have gone somewhere else. It's something we hear all the time from some of our largest partners - "We just really wanted to work with a non-profit." So yes, we can compete.



That said, I think it's fair to ask a broader question: Can non-profits really solve a problem as big as a climate change on their own? Of course not. The solution to climate change is going to require above all economic transformation , and that means harnessing every possible resource an economy has to offer, including the profit motive.
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