The Commons Offset Portfolio
On a regular basis, our team of experts evaluates new offset providers to ensure we are sourcing the best offsets on the market for the Commons community to support. The Commons team are offset skeptics ourselves, so we know they’re not all created equal. Just like you wouldn’t put all your money into one stock, we don’t put your whole offset into a single project. We curate a portfolio of providers that not only reduce and remove carbon, but also prioritize innovation, scalability, and environmental justice.
The current Commons Offset Portfolio features projects from six carbon offset and removals partners.
Our providers protect and restore forests, store carbon in soil through regenerative agriculture techniques, support open ocean kelp farming to permanently store carbon in seaweed, and even sequester carbon deep underground in the form of carbon-rich bio-oils. To learn more about how carbon removals work in practice, see our soil, biomass, and forestry primers.
Pachama uses rigorous, satellite-based monitoring systems to ensure forestry projects are protecting and restoring forests, as well as benefiting communities and ecosystems.
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Nori offers a transparent, scalable approach to help farmers use regenerative agricultural practices to store carbon in soil.
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Charm Industrial has developed an innovative new technology to permanently store carbon-rich bio-oils deep underground.
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NCX directly supports and empowers US landowners to protect their forests, a critical carbon sink.
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Running Tide is pioneering a novel approach that uses kelp farms in the open ocean to permanently store carbon.
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Grassroots Carbon empowers farmers with rigorous approaches to measure carbon they restore in soil through regenerative agricultural practices.
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The Commons team developed a portfolio-based offsetting strategy because there’s no silver bullet to solve the climate crisis.
It’s possible to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis if we act quickly to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The International Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 Special Report, however, made clear that no single climate solution - be it forestry, batteries, green buildings, or direct air capture - will be enough to get us there. We need a broad arsenal of climate solutions, and we need them ASAP.
Over the next 30 years, the global community needs to balance investments in cost-efficient solutions that avoid, reduce, or remove carbon now (e.g. clean cookstoves, infrastructure, forestry, soil) with longer-term, pricier solutions that store and sequester carbon permanently (e.g. direct air capture, biomass carbon removal and storage).
The Oxford Principles for Net Zero Aligned Offsetting, released in September 2020, present a framework for how to think about supporting carbon reduction now, while intentionally shifting to carbon removal with long-lived storage by mid-century. The Principles suggest that supporting a portfolio of projects that balances carbon reduction and removal types is the best way to achieve this. Avoided or reduced emissions without storage tend to be the cheapest projects (e.g. clean cookstoves, renewable energy), while carbon removal with long-lived storage is currently the most expensive (e.g. direct air capture, mineralization).
Examples of each project type include:
You can support the solutions we need most to achieve net zero by 2050.
The Commons Offset Portfolio allows you to buy into a carefully blended selection of climate solutions that align with the Oxford Principles to get our world to net zero emissions by 2050. Our Portfolio, balanced across forestry, soil, and innovative carbon removal, supports vetted projects at an overall price of $25 per ton (including a 17% Commons fee for sourcing, evaluating, and monitoring projects). Over time, Commons will update our portfolio to achieve a balance that continues to shift toward long-lived storage.
Companies at the forefront of carbon removal investments, like Microsoft and Shopify, have used a similar approach to frame their large-scale carbon removal purchases and bought into many of the same projects as Commons did. For the first time, The Commons Offset Portfolio makes this high-impact approach to offsetting available to regular people, by aggregating demand and doing the same kind of in-depth research and monitoring that larger companies do, on behalf of all of us.
The Commons team developed a rigorous evaluation process to select our Portfolio projects.
The offset projects selected by Commons are backed by evidence and analysis. To evaluate projects, our team conducts our own meticulous research, consults third-party analyses, and engages with experts to ensure they meet the following criteria.
First, we screen carbon offset and removal projects for carbon integrity. Projects must, at their core, actually reduce or remove the carbon they claim to. Our Carbon Integrity criteria include:
- Verifiability: The carbon reduction or removal must be measured or rigorously evaluated by a trustworthy, independent third party.
- Enforceability: The offset vendor must provide evidence that the carbon credits issued from a project are sold once and retired. Credits must be backed by a contract that defines exclusive ownership.
- Additionality: A project must demonstrate strong evidence that it is not taking credit for carbon reduction or removal that would have happened already, without the project.
- Permanence: To stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, long-term carbon removal and storage is critical. Commons is curating a selection of projects that balance short-term and long-term carbon storage.
- Transparency: We seek to work with partners that demonstrate operational transparency, and provide specific, clear, well-documented evidence of carbon reduction and removal.
Second, we prioritize projects with transformative potential. Addressing the climate crisis will require fundamentally transforming our markets and society. We prefer projects that improve the state of carbon markets and contribute to creating a world for all life to thrive. Our Transformative Potential criteria include:
- Market Efficiency: Commons aims to support a more efficient and direct market for offsets. Commons favors options that provide a higher percent of overall cost to project owners.
- Scalability: Commons favors scalable projects that can meaningfully contribute to reaching global “Drawdown”— when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline — by 2050.
- Catalytic Potential: Commons prioritizes projects that advance innovation, demonstrate replicability, and inspire similar future projects.
- Ecosystem Benefits: We support projects that create benefits to natural ecosystems beyond carbon reduction, including conservation, biodiversity, and climate adaptation benefits.
- Community Benefits: The climate crisis presents enormous equity and justice challenges. We prioritize projects that will benefit the poorest and most vulnerable populations who are affected most by changing climates.
Our offsetting approach complements behavior change, and accelerates the transition to a sustainable future.
The best way to move to a low-carbon future is to build a society that uses less fossil fuels. It is critical that we prioritize cutting our own emissions wherever we can. Changing our own lifestyles - and the products and services we spend our money on - is an important signal that we demand cleaner options. Commons helps people shift to more sustainable choices, and to benchmark against and encourage our peers and communities to do the same.
However, for as long as we live in a fossil-fueled society, there will always be a portion of emissions that we cannot reduce on our own. Even the most committed of us will have a carbon footprint. Paying for high-quality carbon reduction and removal can play an important role in creating demand for much-needed climate solutions. That’s why we created the Commons Offset Portfolio: to support emissions reduction and removal beyond what we can achieve on our own.