Forget carbon offsetting, insetting is the future

Planting trees for carbon offsets is little better than green-washing in many people’s eyes. But what if this sustainability cliche were turned on its head – if trees were planted to support agroforestry within a business’s direct supply chain? Welcome to the world of insetting. Coined and promoted by sustainability standards Plan Vivo and Pur Projet, it’s a potentially powerful concept that can benefit businesses and the environment.

Offsetting may have long had a bad name (George Monbiot has strongly voiced his concerns), but it remains big business. Commodities Now reported that the globally-traded carbon market was expected to reach €64bn in 2014. If even a small slice of that were diverted towards sustainability schemes within supply chains, it could have a big impact.

The Accor hotel group, for example, has 470,000 rooms across 92 countries, and a water and electricity footprint akin to a 1 million inhabitant city. Its sustainable development manager, Arnaud Herrmann, explains that instead of offsetting, “we wanted to support projects that made sense with our own activities. The hotel industry is very water-intensive … and food and beverage represents about 40% of Accor’s turnover. So it was natural to support local projects committed to sustainable water and agriculture.”

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