Very interesting story that seeks to debunk carbon offsets at what I'd call the operational level: the story details several projects "sold" as offsets. The story reports that some projects were already planned prior to any involvement of the sale of a carbon offset. Other deals are criticized as not being transparent enough to prove that they offer promised benefits.
The article spotlights TerraPass, inspired by a project in a UPenn/Wharton classroom, and staffed with Wharton and Stanford grads.
(And their TerraBlog offers several lengthy posts seemingly in response to the Business Week article, which I will have to read.)
I'm still on my soapbox...I surely won't be able to evaluate a carbon offset operationally. I've got to count on the market to do this work for me.
It's likely that most players in carbon offset market, including TerraPass, are privately held. No financial transparency. And by the way, this is the case for many companies with socially conscious brands. Do you know how much money the Newman family earns from Newman's Own? Nope.
From Newman's Own FAQ page:
Family owned and early stage businesses usually don't offer their financials out to the world. Why should they? There is no legal requirement to do so.
Q. To which charities does Newman's Own give the profits?
Actually, Newman's Own, Inc. makes no gift to charity, but Paul Newman, who receives all the profits and royalties from Newman's Own, Inc., distributes all of that personally to the charities of his choice. Since the inception of the company, it is our understanding that the total amount of those gifts to charity has been approximately $200 million.
If you buy Newman's Own products to contribute to the greater good, then you're making a choice to trust Paul Newman.
Same thing with TerraPass and other carbon offset providers.
Business Week quotes TerraPass CEO Tom Arnold:
"Let's get the market working well," he says. "That will do a lot of greater good."Exactly. A functional market will bring financial transparency.
Until then, caveat emptor.