Have you ever asked yourself how you could reduce your CO2 emissions? Antoine Geerinckx set out to find an answer in 2004, but found none. Two years later he founded CO2logic to give companies the opportunity to offset their climate impact and thus earn a CO2-neutral label. "Companies that really do something for the climate must be recognised for their efforts," says Geerinckx.
Antoine Geerinckx assumed that he was not the only one who wanted to compensate for his climate impact, but finding enthusiastic business managers to jump on board was no easy feat. "In the early days of CO2logic, we contacted one company after another. Unfortunately, reducing their climate impact was not too high on their agenda at the time. Fortunately, the film ‘An inconvenient truth’ by Al Gore, which was released a few months later, really raised awareness of the issue. The film encouraged business managers to do something about their climate impact."
Give back in line with your impact
CO2logic works with 3 steps. First, the total emissions of the company are calculated. This includes everything from electricity and gas to cooling and commuting. In the second step, the company is advised to reduce its current emissions as much as possible. The third step is to compensate for the remaining CO2 impact through certified projects in Africa. "We chose Africa because we can really play an active role there," says Geerinckx. "The Western countries that signed the climate agreement are really set to do something for the climate in the future. That is something that is determined by governments, but in developing countries CO2 emissions will only increase."
CO2logic joins forces with local NGOs that set up climate projects together with the population. "We are contacted every week by several NGOs asking us to work together, but we can't help everyone. We are always on the lookout for partners with a good reputation, who are closely linked to the local population and have the right competencies. All our projects are certified with a Gold Standard Label. That certificate is not easy to obtain. Everything has to be verifiable to ensure that a company that, for example, wants to offset 1,000 tonnes of CO2, actually does so."
Meanwhile, CO2logic has set up projects in Uganda, Benin, Kenya, Burkina Faso and Congo. Deforestation, one of the main causes of climate change, is the thread running through the initiatives. Cooking methods are still a major problem in Africa. 93% of the population still cooks on wood fires. Due to population growth, people need more and more wood to survive. This means that the forests are under pressure. Trees in centuries-old forests with an enormous diversity of animals, raw materials and food are being felled. In addition, wood fires are very unhealthy: the smoke causes respiratory tract infections, the second largest cause of death in Africa after malaria.
The ‘Saving Trees’ project in Uganda, which is also supported by ION, tackles these problems at source. "We set out to find a solution that both protects the forests and improves the quality of life of the local population. We found it in distributing simple ovens that require much less wood and produce less smoke. Thanks to these new ovens, a family needs 50% less wood and saves $100 a year. Moreover, each oven results in average annual savings of 2 tonnes of CO2. And there are even more advantages: people need to find less wood, can cook faster and suffer less from respiratory tract infections," Geerinckx explains.
"The ovens are also produced locally, thus creating long-term employment. That's the great thing about our projects: they're not single shots, they’re not efforts that just improve matters temporarily. If an oven breaks down, it is repaired locally and all the materials are reused. The local population is trained to do that themselves,” Geerinckx says.
Climate action as a business plan
Initially, CO2logic had to deal with a lot of scepticism. Some NGOs and environmentalists wondered whether it is noble to fight for the climate and at the same time make a living from it. "At first we suffered a little," Geerinckx admits, "but in the meantime there's enough evidence to show that we're really making a difference. What we were accused of then, simply doesn't make sense. Our philosophy is that certain companies make money by having a negative impact on our planet, while we generate revenue by having a positive impact. We send international capital to serious climate projects in a professional manner. No organisation can argue with that."
CO2logic has adopted a well-thought-out approach. That is a must, because you can only retain a Gold Standard Label if you can provide concrete figures to prove that the efforts are paying off. It’s a guarantee of transparency and trustworthiness: certified projects don't just plant trees, while felling takes place elsewhere. They are mechanisms that protect the climate in the long term.
CO2logic's projects are also checked regularly. "We must be sure that the local population maintains the project," says Geerinckx. "In urban areas in Congo, for example, the ovens are movable. To ensure that people don't resell their ovens, we ask a small amount of money for them instead of just handing them out. Another example is Benin, where we distribute the Teg-Stove, a small oven that allows you to charge small devices such as a mobile phone or LED lamp while you cook. Of course we have to avoid people burning wood to charge their mobile phones, so we distribute small solar panels along with them. Otherwise we create a new problem. We have to be very careful in that view.
"Today, companies are coming to us more spontaneously. By opting for CO2 neutrality, you make sure that you pay for your impact on the climate and that you don't pass the problem on to society and future generations. And companies that do that need to be recognised for their efforts. That is the most important thing for us," says Geerinckx. “If everyone sweeps in front of their own door, the whole street will be clean."
In order to limit its ecological footprint as much as possible, ION has joined forces with CO2logic. On the one hand to reduce CO2 emissions to a minimum and on the other, to compensate for the remaining emissions by supporting a climate project in Uganda. Thanks to these efforts, in December 2017, ION was the only Belgian project developer to have earned a CO2-neutral label for the second year in a row.