From Offsetting to insetting: The next leg in the race to decarbonize industry

An article by Venna Lepel, Head of Strategy at NovoCarbo and Business Development at CarboControl.


 

The conversation surrounding the race to net zero has included a number of solutions to support what is increasingly being seen as a necessity in the coming decades. The date which has been most commonly thrown around is 2050, giving companies and governments just under 30 years to make the shift to more sustainable practices, including an eventual large-scale shift to a circular economy model. What is understood by those in the know however, is that this 2050 goal is largely an arbitrary number – what it represents is a more attainable long-term goal. Any expert in the field can attest to the fact that faster action will be needed to ensure ecological stability, and in turn new methods for supporting a greening of industries will be needed.

One very common “tool” that has been employed by larger companies to improve their sustainability metrics is the purchase of carbon offsets. Basically, a carbon offset refers to purchasing the rights to the carbon allowance of another more sustainable (or even net-zero or carbon negative) company. This is seen often in the auto industry, with legacy automakers for years lining Tesla’s balance sheets by purchasing their carbon offsets instead of making their own practices more environmentally friendly. This poses an important question: is it enough simply to have new emerging companies comply with sustainability metrics, while the rest continue to operate unsustainably for years or even decades into the future? Common sense would suggest not – enter, insetting.

Insetting takes a much different approach to offsetting to decrease carbon emissions across industries, opting instead to pursue sustainability in a matter which in itself is actually sustainable in the long term. Insetting refers to the construction of robust synergistic systems that can help entire industries shift to more sustainable means of operation. Insetting is a way of bringing companies more in sync with the environment through targeting the entire value chain and rethinking certain processes from the ground up.

One of the most promising tools at the ready for companies looking to pursue this new model of sustainability is in the building and utilization of carbon negative pyrolysis plants. These plants allow different industries to capture carbon and avoid emissions through the sequestration of these carbon emissions, which is then subsequently turned into value added (and carbon NEGATIVE) biochar. This biochar can be fine-tuned to serve a number of purposes, from soil improvement and water retention to drinking water filtration and feedstock additives for livestock. The input materials for this process can be as varied as the outputs, allowing companies to utilize excess wood waste and industrial by-products along with a wide range of biogenic residues commonly produced in a wide range of sectors.

The key to insetting lies in integrating the carbon reducing practices into already existing value chains. This will allow companies to drastically reduce their environmental impact while better preparing their business to thrive in a low carbon future. Insetting helps to better integrate business practices, finding synergies that allow for a more efficient and sustainable utilization of resources. In plain English: insetting builds a more sustainable relationship between industry and nature – and the emerging biochar economy stands to play a major role in facilitating the shift from offsetting to insetting across industries.

One of the biggest barriers to promoting an increase in insetting across different industries simply lies in the difficulty to go it alone. Established companies, especially in the industrial sphere, have honed in on their core competencies for years if not decades – carbon credits have up until this point represented an easy, and oftentimes cheap, way of “reducing” the environmental impact of their activities. This is true thanks to the fact that up until recently, pursuing other carbon-reduction strategies has presented itself as a time and resource intensive endeavor. Today’s industrial insetting solution delivers more value than carbon offsetting, while avoiding the need to design and implement the solutions on their own.

At CarboControl, we take the complexity of insetting out of the hands of customers by developing and building new circular business models, so companies can remain focused on their main goals. The pyrolisis technology itself is not novel, but the streamlined approach in which we put it to work for companies represents a major step in ensuring insetting can replace offsetting as the de facto industrial carbon reduction strategy for the next generation.

As our world economy slowly eases out of the global pandemic, and companies across industries ramp up activity to levels even higher than pre-pandemic, it’s important to establish a more sustainable solution to carbon reduction. Insetting offers the most sustainable strategy available, and we are ready to bring a new level of ease to implementing this model for the future. The days of simply paying to offset unsustainable business practices is quickly coming to an end.