Soil Carbon Conversations 3 of 3: Soil Carbon Storage in a Corporate Carbon Reduction Portfolio - Grassroots Carbon

Soil Carbon Conversations 3 of 3: Soil Carbon Storage in a Corporate Carbon Reduction Portfolio

June 8, 2021
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The Grassroots Carbon team was extremely excited to co-sponsor a 3 part webinar series with Global Affairs Associates, LLC. With panelists from Marathon Oil, Shopify, BCarbon, & participating ranches.

Below is the third webinar in our series “Soil Carbon Storage in a Corporate Carbon Reduction Portfolio” along with a transcript of our conversations.

We hope you enjoyed this 3 part series, let us what else you’d like to see in future webinars in the comments.

Video Transcript Provided by YouTube:

Welcome back to soil carbon conversations this is part three of a three-part series on the topic of soil carbon storage. Our first webinar was a discussion with several experts about the many benefits of regenerative grazing and soil carbon storage in our second webinar we talked about soil carbon measurements certification in carbon markets and today we’re going to talk about soil carbon storage in a corporate carbon footprint reduction portfolio. So we are going to start with just a few short bios and to introduce each of our panelists and we’ll jump into questions from there we have about 45 minutes but I will go about five to ten minutes over time just given the technical difficulties at the beginning today so i’ll just start there and we definitely want to take time for your questions feel free to use the q a link to start adding your questions at any time.

So first I’d like to welcome Stacy she is the director of Shopify’s Sustainability Fund Shopify is a leading global commerce company providing trusted tools to start grow market and manage a retail business of any size prior to joining Shopify Stacey was head of the ozone lear protection program at the environment and climate change Canada Stacy worked on several chemicals management regulatory initiatives and represented Canada as a member of delegations for the Stockholm Convention and Montreal protocol Stacey began her career as a practicing environmental engineer second we have Henk Mooiweer he is the co-founder and CEO at Grassroots Carbon Public Benefit LLC. Grassroots Carbon offers an easy way to buy and sell nature-based certified carbon storage credits in his 25-year career at Shell he managed multiple complex business and innovation opportunities as a Shell game changer he took several disruptive innovations to implementation Henk is also an adjunct professor at Rice University where he teaches invention and innovation he also holds a PhD in organic chemistry and third we have Karry Harpole.

Kerry is the manager of regulatory policy and sustainable practices at marathon oil marathon oil corporation is an independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company based in houston texas kerry has a chemical engineering degree from ut austin and an mba from rice in her current role carrie is responsible for esg strategy in previous marathon roles she was responsible for sustainable water management at marathon welcome to our panelists and thank you for being with us today i’m going to start with some cute questions about generally about csr corporate social responsibility esg environmental social governance and corporate carbon footprint reduction let’s start with you stacy so shopify is a company that operates largely in the virtual space how did shopify identify its carbon footprint reduction needs targets and how difficult was it to set those targets great thanks so much for having me caitlin and really happy to be on this panel and hopefully we’ll see kathy on here soon but to start um yes you’re right shopify operates in a mostly virtual environment we are a software company so we’re not um you know manufacturing a product we don’t have an overly complicated supply chain so um you know we have a small carbon footprint relative to other industry sectors and so we started by making sure that we had all of the data we needed to calculate our scope 1 scope 2 and scope 3 emissions and that allowed us to evaluate what would be an impactful corporate climate commitment and so back in 2018 we pledged to be carbon neutral and carbon neutral since we were founded in 2004 so we’ve actually gone back and retroactively calculated all of our corporate emissions and we’ve taken responsibility for those by buying high quality offsets now what happened um when we were working through all of that and looking to buy a high quality carbon offset we started to realize that you get what you pay for and if you’re buying a low priced offset in many cases you’re not actually buying the climate benefit that is equal to what your company emitted into the atmosphere so what we noticed was back in 2018-2019 the quality of an offset that we wanted to buy was not readily available and when i talk about a quality offset i mean something that either captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or is capturing at the end of uh end of a flu stack at the end at a you know a manufacturing facility where they’re unable to do that without intervention and then the other component of quality is the uh term of the storage how long is that carbon dioxide actually locked away from the atmosphere in other parts of the carbon cycle and what we noticed was what we wanted to buy wasn’t readily available and if it did exist it was very expensive so we started to realize that there was a market disruption that needed to happen so we actually alongside our corporate climate commitment established a five million dollar annual climate fund to support new and emerging solutions and technologies to reverse climate change so that’s how we’re approaching it.

The difficulty we had was wanting to buy carbon credits that didn’t quite exist yet thank you um for that let me switch over to um to carry for this question so marathon is different from shopify and that it very much operates with a physical presence um for similar companies with an industrial footprint making changes to the carbon footprint or setting and achieving targets can seem pretty daunting so i just wanted to start with you of how marathon got started in this process what are marathons targets and how difficult was it to set targets as a company hi katelyn well first i will apologize because i have now used to stop gap being on my cell phone so if i cut in and out it’s kind of you know we’re all working through the issues presence we have a lot of technology and installations that are in the field things for us was to really understand what our emission profile was uh where those missions were coming from and then to start to work out a roadmap or a plan on what we were going to you know we’re populated uh by engineers and so the data was very important for us to to get our head around and then we also corporately we initiated that’s to participate in it and also other multi disciplines you know we had law we had all these groups to kind of work as sort of an internal think tank on how we were going to go about this because our executives were very clear in saying that they wanted a concrete goal that was in a time frame that the people that were still here were going to need to execute in and they wanted to know how we were going to get there not a build it and they will come so we established our a 25 goal for an emissions intensity and what that basically means are emissions over you know what we provide for those and that goal is a 15.5 emissions intensity which is roughly a 50 reduction from our 2019 baseline which is what we were looking at when we kind of started the whole process great thank you for that overview so as you know as many of you know this is this can be very um complicated right to not only do the admissions inventory and decide on boundaries and that sort of thing but then to get as Karry mentioned the plan what is the concrete plan uh to help guide us to those targets so we appreciate that overview.

Henk let me just pop over to you for this we know that grassroots carbon works with corporate sustainability teams um but you’ve been in the space for a very long time including during your career at shell have you seen any trends or changes uh in in this industry generally um around carbon storage and carbon offsets and such um as you’ve been working to promote soil carbon storage yes Caitlin thanks for for having me here absolutely we’ve seen huge shift basically in the interest of companies when we talked to companies about two years ago about soil carbon storage and how that could help them and reduce their carbon footprint we got strong interest people were very enthusiastic and literally got the feedback from wow this is a fantastic solution and you’re on to something very big very exciting and then it stopped most of the time and we literally got the response back from why should we reduce our footprint right now that’s it’s really not necessary so come back to this later that’s what we got a lot of times so strong interest no action that changed tremendously the last six months the conversations we now have about measured and independently certified soil carbon storage you get the response from how many tons of carbon storage can you deliver this year so it is a completely different scene you can actually summarize it from from shifting from interest to action okay so on that topic of shifting from targets to action um let’s start with you Kerry what was challenging at Marathon to turn your targets into action and what is it that you look for in solutions for carbon footprint reduction well one of the things in turn in terms of turning the targets into actions is there was a big education process emissions are not terribly straightforward so that is that is really a challenge that you have to get people to understand uh I think a lot of people you know I used to do water for a long time you can see it you can touch it you can measure it whereas emissions uh there’s a lot of calculations that are involved so we did have to do a large amount of education just all the way through our assets for them to understand and so when we’re looking for it we are looking for two things because there really are two factors people have to consider one is what is going to an actual difference and the other is also going what’s going to make a difference in your accounting methods because that’s how a lot of this stuff is done on a regulatory basis it’s based on models or accounting sometimes those two things don’t necessarily match up so that was important for us to be able to identify those projects and also to focus on projects where you could get you know a lot of bang for your effort um you know you can look at a lot of little bitty things but if they don’t really add up to something substantive you’re kind of diluting your effort yeah thank you for that.

Kerry um Stacy it what with your experience at Shopify um what did you experience as challenges and what do you look for in potential carbon footprint reduction solutions?

That’s a great question because when I joined shopify back at the beginning of 2020 to build out our climate fund and our corporate carbon footprint program um and i was you know told oh you have five million dollars to spend every year to support promising climate solutions and technologies i was really excited i’m like wow that’s exciting and i thought it wouldn’t be um difficult to spend 5 million until i realized very quickly that the solutions that you know we thought were going to be easy to find didn’t exist or existed in research and existed in proof of concept facilities or pilot scale facilities and so the biggest challenge was finding ways to get involved with these companies before they were necessarily commercially ready and to be their first customer and so what that meant was we couldn’t have a traditional customer relationship where okay you’re selling these carbon credits great we’re going to buy them we’d like to negotiate down that price and you know we ended up having to realize well if we’re going to be a first customer and if we’re going to do that early so that these companies have that revenue stream that is so important when they’re starting to commercialize and get into the market that early revenue is what then allows other sources of capital to come in and support these companies and so the biggest challenge for us was finding a way to make sure that we were getting involved with companies that we’re going to provide that climate benefit but to do it in a flexible way that encourage them you know if you are successful will buy more and to come up with a flexible approach that then encouraged the adoption of that climate solution yeah very very insightful there um a lot of this is new and it’s sometimes hard you know to be the to stick your neck out and be the leader or be the first the first of anything so Ii think that’s a really interesting point too in terms of organizational organizational alignment hank you’ve been interacting with many companies um who are aiming to reduce their their carbon emissions um do you have anything to add in terms of additional general challenges that you’ve observed yeah so occasionally the challenges we see are really true it is of course very difficult to reduce your carbon footprint and you realize that quite often a company should work with a portfolio of solutions there’s not a single solution which works but how do you build this portfolio how do you build a robust scalable and affordable portfolio that’s hard I think there’s also natural one of the challenges maybe there’s a natural appeal for shiny technologies a company seem to trust that especially when you’re the energy industry when it’s steel and it’s a pipeline and a compressor it sounds very good and yes that might work but it’s quite often extremely expensive and maybe not that scalable you can quite often cannot handle scope 3 emissions and emissions from your customers so what now nature is quite often not that trusted it seems to be like fragile and unknown and how can you grab it so that is a challenge the basically the unfamiliarity of companies with what nature can do this fight effective nature works with carbon for hundreds of millions of years it is hard to maybe get get your hand around it and maybe a last challenge of what stacy also mentioned early on if you look at nature-based carbon offsets there’s a huge variety in quality and you can buy cheap forest credits and you can buy relatively high priced carbon storage credits so what is the difference it is confusing it requires you to do a lot of homework and preparation so that is a challenge with that that education piece carrie talked about absolutely.

Henk before we dive into this specific solution um could you just give us a really quick refresher of what soil carbon storage is and how regenerative ranching and american land managers fit into this solution yeah absolutely so the first webinar which which i uh watched there’s a lot of experts telling the story there but basically if you look at the grasslands in the united states they can store over a billion tons of co2 atmospheric co2 reliably every year year after year for decades and decades so that’s a huge chunk that’s almost 20 of the us greenhouse gas emissions it’s not only about carbon if you actually do that you also regenerate the grassland ecology with an enormous impact on birds insects wildlife soil health water absorption erosion prevention all these fantastic positive benefits so it’s way beyond carbon and how you can do that is actually relatively fast you don’t have to start change how you use land it’s basically changing how you manage animals on land if you start regenerative grazing or amp grazing or holistic land management where cattle moves around mimicking the bison over the great plains you get all these fantastic ecological benefits very fast whether in a few years and on top of that you store a lot of carbon so there’s a lot of benefits there so um Kerry why did Marathon decide to use soil carbon storage as part of its carbon reduction portfolio specifically oh and it looks like our connection might be cut with her let’s start with uh stacy right now um why did Shopify decide to use soil carbon storage as part of its carbon reduction portfolio so when we set up our approach we decided we didn’t want to pick one kind of solution we wanted as hank talked about to develop a balanced portfolio so within our sustainability fund at Shopify we have 13 companies Grassroots Carbon is one of them and so we wanted to get involved with a variety of solutions and there’s a couple of reasons one we wanted to learn because as Henk also mentioned and i was talking about earlier it’s really important to understand what you’re buying and what you’re getting involved in so one way to do that is to work alongside a variety of companies so that you can learn how they’re approaching the solution what goes into the monitoring and verification of those carbon credits so that’s one of the reasons why we decided to get into soil carbon was because we saw that there was a need for people to provide support by saying you know what this is going to work we believe in this solution we may not have all the research and data necessarily at hand to to confirm that but in order to reverse climate change we are going to need all the solutions so soil carbon storage needed some support early on so that they can prove their concept so that you know they can go out and do monitoring to back up the climate benefit and then to go back to one of the points hank made it is about land use like we are going to have to continue ranching and we can’t um you know replant forests across all of north america or worldwide we don’t have the land for that we have to balance our land use split so if we can continue ranching do it differently but also have a climate benefit that that really is an excellent solution thank you carrie if you’re reconnected we’d love to hear your um perspective as well about why marathon chose to include soil carbon storage in in the portfolio yes so can y’all hear me we can’t yeah. [Laughter]

Go ahead so for us uh you know it was very a lot of what Henk was saying um resonated with us um you know the some of the technological solutions are are very very expensive and they’re also years and years to to get implemented we also looked at some of the offsets that were out there but one of the things that we really liked was the ability that soil carbon or or pulling it into the soil was sequestering actual co2 as opposed to mitigating impacts of of other ecological issues forest destruction those kind of things so that was one of the the pieces that we really liked about it the other was the multiple environmental benefits that you got from it you got improvement of your watershed you had improvement of biodiversity that were all things that were really great consequences of doing this as opposed to maybe some unintended consequences that could happen from from technology and then i’m also an engineer so you know the concept of removing things that are in the part per million concentration levels out of the atmosphere is really a very very difficult hurdle to get over and the part about this that was amazing is that you effectively have a technology because i would argue nature based is is technical too it’s just not made out of steel usually that over millions of years that has it has been refined to pull carbon out of the air from a small concentration so those things and then as Stacy was saying the fact that it’s it’s not really a land use change it’s a land modification change or how you’re using it was also very appealing because getting people to completely change what they’re doing is very difficult so definitely it sounds like a lot of the co-benefits are appealing across the board.