Published on   22nd, March 2024
Read time 13 min

The New Era of CSR: Integrating Social Responsibility with Carbon Offsets

Biodiversity
Carbon offsetting
Community impact
Education
Energy sector
Resource industry
NC – 1440 x 810 – FEB
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The New Era of CSR: Integrating Social Responsibility with Carbon Offsets

To achieve carbon neutrality while building and maintaining sustainable communities, business leaders must think critically about corporate social responsibility (CSR), shifting it from ‘compliance’ — another mandatory KPI to meet — to the culture and processes embedded in business. If you’re still questioning whether ‘going green’ is nothing more than a PR distraction, just take a look at this  Forbes article with an antidote that illustrates the point perfectly — summarised below. 

The manager of a global consumer-goods company was discussing the impact of marketing on society with a group of management students. The socially aware Gen Z’ers were shocked to hear the company didn’t have a CSR strategy (social responsibility is a widely held core value of the generation born 1997-2012). But the manager quickly followed the remark with ‘CSR is our only strategy.’ 

CSR has become more than a footnote in the annual report; it’s an investment and an employment and consumer loyalty metric. ‘CSR is the only strategy’ is a powerful approach. It’s not just ethically sound – it’s good business.

Improves brand reputation

In an era where companies are judged and contracts are won due in part to their ethical identity, CSR strategies are pivotal in shaping a company’s public image.

Attracts and retains talent

Maintaining a reputation for corporate social responsibility is its own blazing billboard for potential employees, especially millennials and Gen Z, who seek companies aligned with their values.

Appeals to investors

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) is now a key consideration for private investors and enormous managed funds looking for growth opportunities.

Resource companies elevating CSR

Responsible for 4-7% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally, mining companies are often heavily scrutinised for their negative impacts, meaning that CSR policies have become central to maintaining their social licence to operate and core to their mission.

Western Australian metals company Fortescue is an excellent example of a business that has made CSR central to its purpose. The company is rapidly diversifying to become a leader in global green energy, transitioning to green hydrogen to decarbonise the carbon-intensive steelmaking process through DRI (Direct Reduction Iron). Fortescue also runs a Community Grants Program that provides funding for local organisations and programs that benefit people in the Pilbara where their Iron ore project operates.

BHP is another example of a resources company putting CSR at the centre of its business. The BHP Foundation operates 38 projects worldwide and “catalyses new solutions to social and environmental challenges.” Projects include the Australia Program, which focuses on Indigenous self-determination and the well-being of young people. BHP partners with the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute (AIGI), which “connects Indigenous Australians to world-class governance practice, resources and professional development to meet their self-determined governance needs.”

Resource companies play an integral role in decarbonisation, with the power to generate renewable energy solutions and supply resources critical to the electric revolution. However, in industries where achieving renewable electrification is challenging, implementing environmental plantings is a practical strategy for generating carbon offsets.

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Ethical carbon offset projects that offer real value

The Safeguard Mechanism (SGM) reform, part of the Australian Government’s goal of reducing emissions 43% below 2005 levels by 2030, requires Australia’s largest polluters to cut their emissions by 4.9%. With this reform and more rigid reporting standards beginning in the future, resource companies that cannot meet targets must offset their emissions through carbon offset projects.

The carbon market will continue to thrive, and we see this as an opportunity for companies to rethink their CSR strategies and invest in high-quality projects that offer real value to the environment, community and business. But first, we must define high-quality, socially responsible carbon projects and how we can make them most beneficial to shareholders and the business.

High-quality projects generate real greenhouse gas abatement and effectively reduce the total CO2 operations emitted. But it’s also important that the project is ethically managed and benefits the community in which it resides. Of course, how the project will look and the specifics involved will depend on the project itself, but here are some things to consider:

Land consent and consultation 

When sourcing land for carbon offset projects, informed consent sounds obvious. However, there have been many instances where consent for land usage was not obtained from Traditional Land Owners. If projects are to benefit communities, project managers must consult Traditional Land Owners and share information freely so stakeholders are fully aware of the project and their rights but also have an opportunity to participate (and be remunerated) in and outside the carbon market.

“While carbon projects offer significant opportunities, without proper consultation and appropriate checks and balances, and an ongoing commitment to seeking ongoing free, prior and informed consent, there is a risk of third-party projects contributing to the disempowerment of Indigenous people.” – Tyronne Garstone, CEO, Kimberley Land Council at the NICF in Indigenous participation in the carbon industry.

Local engagement

Carbon offset projects create a unique opportunity to align Caring for Country aspirations with emission reduction. Engaging Traditional Land Owners to share traditional knowledge of Country with stakeholders and younger generations will benefit the project and the community. A prime example is the Savanna Fire Management Method. Managed by Aboriginal ranger groups in Northern Australia, the savanna method draws on traditional practices to create an approved emissions methodology that benefits the environment and provides economic opportunities for Indigenous communities.

Community co-benefits 

The media and climate change industry bodies have been scrutinising carbon projects and questioning how they affect the communities in which they operate. For instance, a carbon project may sequester carbon, but does it improve local biodiversity? Is there a positive impact on natural resources and sustainability initiatives locally? How will the project be measured in community perception? These are crucial questions that must be asked before the project begins and managed throughout the project’s lifespan.

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Social impact with Nativ Carbon

At Nativ Carbon, we’re committed to improving Western Australian environments and creating social change with impactful carbon offset projects that benefit all. We achieve this through our community partnerships and participation.

First Nations participation 

Nativ Carbon is committed to meaningful engagement and collaboration with First Nations communities, recognising their vital role in environmental conservation and land management. We work with Traditional Owner groups to ensure our projects align with Indigenous communities’ cultural values and environmental stewardship principles. 

In partnership with majority-owned Indigenous company Gambara, we actively involve Traditional Owners of Country in seed collecting, fence removal, weed control, and plant installation. Our collaboration extends to Badgebup Aboriginal Corporation, which offers local Noongar people employment and training opportunities in conservation and land management. Recently, we have joined forces with Maali Group, an Aboriginal-owned and managed contracting services company. 

Through these partnerships, Nativ Carbon aims to ensure that at least 25% of our plant installation workforce comprises individuals from First Nations communities, reflecting our dedication to fostering inclusive and sustainable environmental projects​​.

Community partnership

Nativ Carbon projects extend beyond environmental rejuvenation, contributing to the economic well-being of our work locations. We partner with local contractors, including SERCUL, an independent environmental organisation that brings together local governments, businesses and educational institutions to assist in projects that improve the health of our waterways and ecosystems. To foster learning opportunities, we organise learning days with schools such as Central Midlands Senior High School to teach STEM students about sustainability and biodiversity. Nativ Carbon also meticulously tracks our spending in communities to ensure we contribute to their economic resilience.

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Driving positive change

87% of Australians believe businesses have a social responsibility to do good, and 64% of millennials won’t take a job if their employee doesn’t have a strong CSR strategy. Furthermore, CSR is a key consideration in investment decisions. For talent attraction alone, these stats are indicators that it’s in every company’s best interest to rethink its approach to carbon offset projects. 

The push for Net Zero by 2050 is a matter of environmental necessity and an invitation for social change. It’s time to set a precedent for how environmental initiatives can simultaneously address climate change and support local communities.

Nativ Carbon’s approach to carbon offset planting illustrates this new wave of CSR. By partnering with organisations like Gambara, Badgebup Aboriginal Corporation and Maali Group, we can provide employment, training and development opportunities, especially for Indigenous communities, to ensure our projects are environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive.

The role of corporations in driving positive environmental and social change is more significant than ever. Developing carbon offset projects at the intersection of environmental stewardship and social empowerment will contribute meaningfully to society while achieving economic objectives.

Deliver your environmental and social responsibilities with a strategic carbon offset partner. Start a conversation.