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LAUNCHING AN INNOVATIVE COLLABORATION TO SCALE THE VOLUNTARY CARBON MARKET

Brian Alderman, IvyCo Founder/CEO & Christine Cadigan, American Forest Foundation Director

June 27, 2021

Deploying spare change in the fight against climate change.

The American Forest Foundation (AFF) and IvyCo are launching an innovative collaboration to fight climate change by bringing together family forest owners and individual consumers. AFF, a national conservation organization, works to empower family forest owners across the U.S. to make a positive impact on their land. Their Family Forest Carbon Program (FFCP) is unlocking the immense potential for family held forest land to participate in the voluntary carbon marketplace. IvyCo, a financial technology startup, has created a product that enables the collective power of conscious consumers by automatically rounding up their spare change to bring critical funding to the FFCP. Together, IvyCo and the FFCP are working to address challenges in scaling the voluntary carbon markets, increasing the potential of family forests as a critical natural climate solution.  

Screenshot of the IvyCo application

IvyCo creates products to empower individuals to fight climate change with their everyday purchases. By connecting to an individual’s bank accounts through secure Open Banking technology, IvyCo analyzes spending patterns to help users understand their largest areas of climate impact.  More than just educating about carbon intensive spending, IvyCo lets users round up their spare change to fund decarbonization efforts, including the FFCP. These micro-transaction round ups lead to a significant impact over time - every $11 raised for the FFCP leads to improved management of an acre of family-owned forests. IvyCo tracks both the impact of a user’s spending and the impact of their round ups over time, demonstrating the difference small actions of individuals can have on the climate challenges facing us.

The Family Forest Carbon Program is a partnership between the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy that aims to engage a previously untapped climate solution. The FFCP pays small forest owners to implement Improved Forest Management practices – the second largest potential natural climate solution in the U.S. – on their family-owned forest lands. The largest share of US forests - 36% - are owned by families, so finding ways to engage them in improved management is critical to activating our nation’s natural climate solutions.  By 2030, the Program hopes to catalyze the enrollment of 20% of family forest owned lands in FFCP or similar programs. If the FFCP can achieve that level of enrollment, family forests can mitigate as much as 80 million tons of CO2e each and every year.  That would be the equivalent of taking 18 million cars off the road, or shuttering 20 coal fired power plants.

Individual consumers have historically had a difficult time navigating carbon markets, as highlighted by the Task Force on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets. Introducing the FFCP to IvyCo users provides an ideal opportunity to streamline and credibly involve IvyCo users in a key climate solution. Since IvyCo continually provides analysis and insights back to our users, there are regular opportunities to update and educate them about family forest owners and what it means to manage forests sustainably. This level of involvement increases consumer trust, has more impact than just “planting trees”, and improves carbon literacy. By focusing on sharing landowner stories and program progress, IvyCo will make more personal the abstract nature of climate solutions. Additionally, IvyCo’s solution relies on micro-transactions, the spare change you’d usually stuff in a drawer, to smooth out contributions over time, therefore increasing participation in the carbon market by lowering barriers to entry.

In the same way IvyCo helps individual consumers navigate carbon markets, the FFCP enables small forest owners to access the same markets as carbon credit producers. Historically, less than 1% of the acres in forest carbon projects were on small ownerships (between 20 and 1,000 acres), the size range of the majority of family forest properties. FFCP enables these smaller landowners to participate through an innovative program design and new methodology that removes much of the cost barriers to the landowner.

The Task Force on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets also identified the need for Core Carbon Principles to ensure carbon credits are of high integrity and quality. The FFCP is designed to meet and exceed these forthcoming principles by using a new methodology to calculate the carbon benefits, and aligning incentives to meet the specific needs of family forest owners. Ensuring quality climate benefits is also of keen interest to the individual consumers that use IvyCo. Since individual consumers generally need not dabble in corporate-like carbon accounting, incentives for quality are aligned because achieving climate benefits rather than minimizing the per credit costs is the priority. Additionally, individual consumers are more likely to value the co-benefits that FFCP creates including increased biodiversity and support for local communities.

Incredible climate benefits can be achieved through scaling IvyCo and AFF’s partnership.  U.S. forests and forest products currently neutralize 15% of the United States’s annual carbon emissions. More importantly, studies suggest this could be nearly doubled with the right actions. Protecting and enhancing this critical carbon sink requires involving family owned forests, since they make up the largest percentage of US forest ownership groups. Similarly massive in impact, households are responsible for 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and household spending is responsible for 70% of the US economy. If 100,000 Americans used IvyCo to round up just $10 per month - equivalent to just 0.17% of median household income - it would enable adding 1 million acres of family forest land to the FFCP per year. That’s an area a bit larger than Rhode Island.

Additionally, early and sustained funding helps carbon projects like the FFCP grow faster and lead to even more significant climate impacts. The aggregated contributions of IvyCo users are structured to remain in the FFCP program for up to five years before resulting in verified carbon credits, which enables the FFCP to use the funding to amplify impact many times over. The unique ability of individual consumers to fund the early development of the FFCP helps ensure its success not only for the carbon credits produced from the IvyCo contributions, but also for the larger corporate carbon marketplace.

Working together, the FFCP and IvyCo create a full lifecycle of aggregation from consumers to family forest owners. The FFCP is unique in the voluntary carbon marketplace because it focuses on small landholders, just like IvyCo focuses on individuals. FFCP is deploying an innovative methodology to make it viable to produce carbon credits from small land holdings (40 acres vs. the usual thousands of acres for other forestry carbon credit programs), just like IvyCo has an innovative methodology to enable Individuals to take action based on their own spending. Individuals and family forest owners together create a meaningful climate solution that helps all involved achieve their climate goals.

A version of this post also appears on the American Forest Foundation Blog at https://www.forestfoundation.org/blog-ffcp-ivyco

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