During last week’s United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Conference on Jobs and Sustainable Development, leaders repeatedly made the case for advancing tourism as a way to lift people out of poverty while minimizing any environmental impact.
At first glance, the UNWTO’s pledge comes across as hyper-ambitious. Most projections estimate annual international trips will surge 50 percent, or over 1.8 billion a year by 2030. So how can this growth become responsible and sustainable? Considering the number of flights involved – and their carbon emissions – tourism's carbon footprint presents a huge concern.
One company, Allcot, believes it can assist the tourism industry, as well as other sectors, on this front with its suite of carbon offset programs. Allcot’s various projects, notably one in Guatemala, was instrumental in enabling last week’s conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica, become a carbon-neutral event. To date, the company claims it has traded over 20 million carbon emission allowances.
“The fundamental thing we can do is that we can work with anyone from small organizations to large companies and nonprofits to help reduce their impacts on the environment and help navigate the broad economic transition to sustainability,” said Kevin Fertig, Director of Business Development for Allcot Americas.
Allcot offers three core services: carbon measurement, carbon reduction consulting and carbon offset programs.
Measurement is key to identifying inefficiencies across an organization’s operations. Allcot figures once an organization can accurately measure its energy consumption and carbon emissions, that company will be ready to find ways to chip away even more at its carbon footprint.
Carbon reduction involves some obvious solutions, such as investments in clean energy technologies. If an organization decides to invest in clean energy, taking such a step is usually cheaper than sourcing power from what the local grid can provide. In addition, as the price of renewables continues to fall, organizations have more access to reliable and cost-effective sources of power. “We often explain to organizations that if they invest in energy efficiency on-site, they can often score a payback period within two years, and afterward generate cost savings,” said Fertig.
As a result, while an organization curbs its energy use, it can also decrease costs. Furthermore, if these new best practices can be shared with a company’s suppliers, that business in turn can lower its supply chain costs, further reducing overall long-term expenses.
Investment in carbon offsets, insisted Fertig, is the "best last place" organizations should be looking when they are evaluating how to reduce their carbon footprints. “You need to reduce the emissions where it makes the most sense for you,” said Fertig, “but there will always be unavoidable emissions, as with airplanes.”
For those pesky last remaining emissions, a company can offset its impact and also improve its overall sustainability performance by investing in an ongoing project elsewhere in the world.
In implementing this three-tiered plan, the company counts three verticals as comprising the core of its business:
- First, Allcot works with the global travel sector, which has long struggled with mitigating its carbon footprint. The company says it works with hotel associations to develop sustainability standards that can help this industry manage its carbon footprint.
- In addition, the company counts the sports industry as one of its target markets – which should not be surprising considering Allen Hershkowitz, Managing Director of Allcot Americas, is involved with organizations such as Sports and Sustainability International (SandSI).
- Finally, Allcot believes the international finance sector is key to the continued growth of its carbon offset and consulting services. Fertig explained that Allcot advises this industry to work on reducing the carbon footprint of the actual electronic transactions. After all, each electronic message and transfer has its own carbon cost – a small one, but they add up quickly with the thousands of transactions a bank can complete on any given day.
“A lot of the world’s largest banks and financial institutions realize how important green finance is, but what they don’t look at is the carbon cost of the transactions themselves,” Fertig said. “Even if you’re diverging a large amount of funds into ambitious carbon offset and climate mitigation projects, there is still a carbon cost to each transaction.”
The differentiator for Allcot is the fact that it is not merely a program manager, nor is it a carbon offset broker. The company manages 14 carbon offset projects worldwide, which range from clean energy installations to methane capture at landfills to reforestation, with one example being a mangrove reforestation project in Senegal. Additional reforestation projects are located in the Amazonian rainforests of Brazil, as well as the aforementioned program in Guatemala.
Allcot describes itself as one of the only vertically integrated carbon offset company on the market. Since the company owns its own carbon offset projects, it can be cost-competitive, and can even share revenues with clients because it has a steady stream of revenues due to the fact it owns its own carbon offset programs. “We can do this because there is no middleman fee, as we’re not just a broker,” said Fertig.
Organizations can estimate their emissions by using various carbon calculators available online, including one that Allcot provides. The emissions tally up fast: one ton of carbon is equivalent to 12 nights spent in a tourist destination such as Jamaica; 10 tons of carbon are equivalent to the household energy consumption by an average U.S. household over the course of a year.
Image credit: Allcot
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.