Dreamforce is a bit like a holiday feast in that there are usually leftovers to savor. One of the stories that didn’t get enough attention at last month’s event was Salesforce’s path to becoming a carbon-neutral company. Time to savor it.
Salesforce has made a monumental effort to switch to green electricity generation and ensure that its buildings and business processes are as light on the planet as possible. It even hired a chief sustainability officer to get the details right. One of those details involved purchasing carbon credits to balance out its remaining carbon emissions with certified carbon offset projects.
When it came time to pick a mitigation partner, Salesforce went to its partner ecosystem and its foundation for a solution and found Cool Effect, a nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals, organizations and businesses support carbon emission-reduction projects easily and transparently.
Cool Effect selects projects that issue credits that have been approved by an international carbon standard such as the Gold Standard, The Verified Carbon Standard, Climate Action Reserve, Win Vivo or the UNFCCC.
For example, the Gold Standard was established in 2003 by the World Wildlife Fund and other international NGOs as a best practice standard to ensure projects that reduced carbon emissions under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism also would foster sustainable development.
International standards-based approvals imply that a project has undergone certification, monitoring and verification by a third party, a certified United Nations auditor, and that all the documentation has been properly filed. Unless a project has completed a program like this, its carbon credits are not real or verified.
Cool Effect hires a second independent scientific auditor to re-review the project documentation for “additionality,” and perform supplementary due diligence on the project. Additionality is a key concept in the carbon market. A project is considered “additional” if it reduces CO2 emissions in addition to what might have happened in the ordinary course of business.
A project that reduces CO2 emissions and financially depends on the sale of carbon credits to do so is additional. A project that is profitable without the sale of carbon credits, such as many wind programs, is not additional. Other programs deemed not additional include those required by a governmental entity, such as methane capture from landfills.
Cool Effect offers projects as diverse as methane capture from coal seams on Native American lands, to biogas projects that turn waste into energy, and clean-burning cookstoves for rural poor around the world.
Salesforce has proven itself extremely useful as a tool for capturing and organizing the large quantities of data required for carbon programs. Cool Effect, the sales platform for carbon offset projects, uses Marketing Cloud. Proyecto Mirador and the Uga stove project are both cookstove projects featured by Cool Effect that use Salesforce for data collection and stove tracking.
As an example, Proyecto Mirador, based in Honduras, sells Gold Standard carbon offsets to pay for the construction of efficient cookstoves in rural Central America. It’s not unusual for a family to run a stove or tend a fire for eight hours straight when cooking corn and beans, two staples of life in Honduras.
The stoves are much more efficient, using less wood, and they have chimneys to vent toxic smoke, so it’s a win for both sides. People get better stoves and the benefits of not inhaling smoke for long periods, and the stoves generate carbon credits.
Using handheld devices, field workers visit homes where stoves are installed to survey use and maintenance with qualitative surveys. When cell coverage is available, workers upload their data to Salesforce, where employees in California as well as Honduras can review it. The data collected is used to answer questions on a number of parameters related to carbon credit issuance.
Since Proyecto Mirador’s start in 2004, the project has built more than 150,000 stoves, according to Cool Effect estimates. Over an estimated five-year life, each stove could prevent the generation of 14.5 metric tons of CO2.
Cool Effect offers 11 projects similar to Mirador in that they all use simple technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Taken together, the Cool Effect projects have reduced global warming emissions by 16 million tons — but in order to continue their work or even grow, they need to sell their credits.
As we think about the macro effects of carbon emissions on the global climate, it’s easy to think that small contributions from efforts like Proyecto Mirador are overmatched by the enormity of the need — but that’s not true.
Carbon pollution comes from everywhere, and solving the climate challenge will require solutions at every level that emissions are produced. There are no quick fixes, but projects like Cool Effect’s provide great examples of how everyone can participate in the effort to lower emissions for the benefit of all parties involved, from poor people to large corporations.